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Chapter 9 - Peace Officer Misconduct or Abuse

A governmental authority, agent or person acting on behalf of a governmental authority is prohibited from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives any person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by state or federal law. The Attorney General may bring a civil action for equitable or declaratory relief to eliminate the unlawful pattern or practice. (112)

Penal Code section 832.5 requires each department or agency which employs peace officers to establish a procedure for investigating citizens' complaints against such officers. Each department or agency is required to make available to the public a written description of the procedure it uses. Complaints, reports, or findings must be retained for a period of at least five years.

It is the policy of the California Department of Justice that local government will be primarily responsible for citizen complaints against law enforcement agencies and their employees, and that appropriate local resources (e.g., sheriff or police department, district attorney, citizens' review commission and/or grand jury) be utilized for resolution of such complaints prior to a request for intervention by the Attorney General. All complaints filed with the California Department of Justice will be processed and reviewed by the Attorney General's Public Inquiry Unit to determine whether all local remedies have been exhausted. Complaints meeting this criterion are then forwarded to and reviewed by the Attorney General's Criminal Law Division and Civil Rights Enforcement Section. If the complaint alleges that the local district attorney wrongfully declined to criminally prosecute the officer-involved, the Criminal Law Division may review the matter to determine whether the district attorney abused his or her discretion in declining to bring criminal charges and take whatever other action that the Attorney General may deem appropriate. Complaints that raise alleged patterns or practices of the violation of civil rights by a local law enforcement agency may be reviewed by the Civil Rights Enforcement Section for whatever action that the Attorney General may deem appropriate. You may contact:

California Department of Justice
Office of the Attorney General
Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
Telephone (800) 952-5225 Toll Free (in California)
(916) 322-3360
(800) 952-5549 Toll Free TTD (in California)
(916) 324-5564 TTD
Website: http://oag.ca.gov

Civil Code sections 52.3, and 52.1, and the California Constitution, article V, section 13, provide civil remedies under which the California Attorney General may redress patterns or practices.

Penal Code section 13519.4, effective January 1, 2001, prohibits "racial profiling" by law enforcement officers. "Racial profiling" is the practice of detaining a suspect for no reason other than the color of that person's skin or apparent nationality or ethnicity. Racial profiling violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses and the prohibition against unlawful searches and seizures embodied in the state and federal constitutions. Every law enforcement officer is required to participate in training on racial and cultural diversity, which includes, but is not limited to, gender and sexual orientation issues.

42 U.S.C. 14141 is the federal law prohibiting any governmental authority, agent, or person acting on behalf of a governmental authority, to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers or by officials or employees of any governmental agency with responsibility for the administration of juvenile justice or the incarceration of juveniles that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States. To file a section 14141 complaint, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
P.O. Box 66400,<
Washington, D.C. 20035-6400
Telephone: (202) 514-6255
Fax: (202) 514-0212
Website: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/index.html

In addition, there are other state and federal penal statutes that address peace officer misconduct. Those cases are prosecuted under state statutes by district attorneys and city attorneys, and under federal statutes by U.S. Attorneys and/or the U.S. Department of Justice.

Individuals may also seek other civil and tort remedies under state and federal law. Local and state bar associations may be contacted for private attorney referrals. Contact the California State Bar at:

The State Bar of California
San Francisco (Main Office)
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639
Telephone: (415) 538-2000
Los Angeles
1149 South Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-2299
Telephone: (213) 765-1000
Website: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/state/calbar/calbar_home.jsp

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Footnotes

  1. Legislation effective January 1, 2001. (Civ. Code, § 52.3.) Back to link 112

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