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Template:New unreviewed article Police misconduct in the United States refers to inappropriate actions taken by American police officers in connection with their official duties. Police misconduct can lead to a miscarriage of justice and sometimes involves discrimination. Among the types of police misconduct are deliberate extraction of false confessions; false arrest; creation and use of falsified evidence, including false testimony; false imprisonment; intimidation; police brutality; police corruption; political repression; racial profiling; sexual abuse; and surveillance abuse. Police drug use is also an emerging issue.[1]


In 2008, several cases of police misconduct in the U.S. were uncovered through surveillance tapes. These include one case where an officer's testimony contradicted the tape, and another tape where police officer Patrick Pogan charged a bicyclist with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and the tape showed that an officer had knocked him off his bicycle. Two undercover cops were indicted on lying about a drug bust, and charges of assault were dropped against a truck driver when the video showed the police beating him; another case showed a man accused of resisting arrest being beaten.[2] Misconduct may be triggered by "contempt of cop", i.e., perceived disrespect towards police officers, such as by asserting one's constitutional rights, or by disrespecting the police.


Some analyses have found that changes in structural disadvantage, population mobility, and Latino population have been associated with changes in police misconduct. Social disorganization may create a context for police misconduct because residents may not have in place the social networks necessary to organize against police malpractice.[3] The fact that most police officers enjoy broad discretion and minimal supervision has been cited as increasing opportunities for police misconduct.[4]

Efforts to combat police misconduct

It is sometimes argued that civil liability can create new deterrents to police misconduct.[5] Civilian police commissioners and citizen review boards have been cited as institutions that can help reduce police misconduct.[6] There is some variation as to how much access the civilian reviewers are given to internal police documents and personnel files.[7] Decertification of police has been cited as another possible remedy.[8] Surveys suggest that officers are aware of the detrimental impacts of police misconduct and hold strong opinions as to what strategies are preferable.[9] The exclusionary rule has been one classic deterrent to obtaining evidence through police misconduct, but it is proposed that it be replaced with restitution to victims of misconduct.[10]

One strategy that has been used to identify, prosecute, and deter police misconduct is increasing the use of video surveillance to document the on-duty actions of police officers. Many police use dashboard mounted cameras to film traffic stops. Some transparency advocates believe that such cameras should be installed in all police cruisers to ensure accountability.[11] Some police departments have experimented with Taser cameras that automatically begin recording when the Taser is deployed.[12] The Cato Institute recommends that police film all no-knock raids.[13]

Due to the ubiquity of digital recording technology, it is becoming more common for individuals to capture police encounters on video.[14] These "citizen videos" have played important an role in raising public awareness about and as evidence of a number of notable acts of police misconduct including the BART Police shooting of Oscar Grant.

The Black Panther Party sought to oppose police brutality through neighborhood patrols. Police officers were often followed by armed Black Panthers who at times came to aid African-Americans who were victims of brutality and racial prejudice. Groups like Copwatch continue to use the patrol method, often using video cameras to document them.

Data collection

U.S. police misconduct statistics are hard to come by because the government does not regularly collect data about police misconduct.

One attempt to track misconduct is David Packman's National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project which estimates misconduct rates using newspaper reports.[15] Packman's data suggest that police are more likely than the average person to commit a number of crimes including assault, sexual assault, and murder, but less likely to commit robbery.[16] Packman projects that roughly 1 in 4.7 officers will be implicated in an act of misconduct during the course of their career.[17]


  1. T Barker; D L Carter (1994), Police Deviance, Third Edition, ISBN 0-87084-714-7,
  2. Hauser C. When Evidence From Surveillance Cameras Leads to Charges Against Officers. New York Times.
  3. Kane, Robert J. (2002), Social Ecology of Police Misconduct, The, 40, Criminology, pp. 867,
  4. Hess, Matthew V. (1993), Good Cop-Bad Cop: Reassessing the Legal Remedies for Police Misconduct, 1993, Utah L. Rev., pp. 149,
  5. Littlejohn, Edward J. (1980-1981), Civil Liability and the Police Officer: The Need for New Deterrents to Police Misconduct, 58, U. Det. J. Urb. L., pp. 365,
  6. Littlejohn, Edward J. (1981-1982), Civilian Police Commission: A Deterrent of Police Misconduct, The, 59, U. Det. J. Urb. L., pp. 5,
  7. C Stone, M Bobb (May 5-8, 2002), Civilian Oversight of the Police in Democratic Societies, Global Meeting on Civilian Oversight of Police,
  8. Goldman, Roger; Puro, Steven (1987-1988), Decertification of Police: An Alternative to Traditional Remedies for Police Misconduct, 15, Hastings Const. L.Q., pp. 45,
  9. Hunter, Ronald D. (1999), Officer Opinions on Police Misconduct, 15, Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, pp. 155–170, doi:10.1177/1043986299015002004
  10. Barnett, Randy E. (1983), Resolving the Dilemma of the Exclusionary Rule: An Application of Restitutive Principles of Justice, 32, Emory L. J., pp. 937,
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