The Process to Report Police Misconduct
The paths to take, or perhaps reconsider, in MinneapolisBy Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on November 13, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorney Joshua Newville
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- Review and Investigation
- When To Seek Help From a Civil Rights Attorney
- Find an Experienced Lawyer to Defend Your Constitutional Rights
If you’ve experienced police misconduct, such as excessive use of force, police abuse, or retaliation, Minnesota has guidelines on how to file a complaint and the process through which that complaint should go.
The traditional route begins with the complaint procedure outlined by Minneapolis’s Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR), including filing any evidence or documentation that the complainant may have of what transpired.
The OPCR publishes complaints of alleged misconduct, their results, and the nature of the complaint. You can track complaints and search for similar complaints by category.
Review and Investigation
If a complaint makes it past the initial phase, it is investigated, and a review panel makes recommendations for discipline (which the law enforcement agency also publishes). If a law enforcement officer or their union representative wishes to refute this discipline, the reports are sent to an arbitration panel to have a hearing on the recommendation.
You can appeal this result to the appellate court and, even higher, to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Most cases don’t get appealed this high on mere disciplinary measures. Many alleged victims turn to the civil courts instead, seeking to file a lawsuit for damages.
When To Seek Help From a Civil Rights Attorney
Rather than starting the process by reporting to the police, however, Minneapolis civil rights attorney Joshua Newville says you’d be better off going straight to an experienced advocate.
“The reality is that, when they try to file complaints, an alleged victim is pressured by the sergeant taking the complaint not to file the charge. They threaten or lecture the complaint-maker on the difficulties of being a police officer rather than taking the complaint. At most precincts, you speak to the sergeant on duty or an internal affairs officer, and when one does so, they are strongly dissuaded from going through the process,” Newville says.
Even the online reporting tool includes the warning, “Please be advised that Minnesota law makes it a criminal offense to make a knowingly false and defamatory report of police officer misconduct.”
After going to an attorney, they can file the complaint form on your behalf, help you gather evidence and documentation, and file suit.
Find an Experienced Lawyer to Defend Your Constitutional Rights
While reaching out to a lawyer first may give you a better shot than starting with the police procedure, Newville says it by no means guarantees you’ll receive justice.
“When you don’t have true independent civilian oversight, and you don’t have true discipline being given out, and you don’t have any discipline being upheld or enforced, at what point will we be able to affect any change? That’s what the courts are for—to redress wrongs. But people aren’t even given their day in court,” he says. “It’s truly a systemic problem. When all of these things happen together, it just shows how dire the situation really is.”
Visit the Super Lawyers directory to find an experienced civil rights lawyer in your jurisdiction. For more information and legal advice on citizen complaints, see our civil rights overview.
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