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Police misconduct in criminal investigations, P.1

Police misconduct has been an issue of growing national importance in recent months due in large part to high profile cases involving the use of deadly force against unarmed men. Baltimore police, it turns out, are familiar with the issue of police misconduct. According to a recent article in the Baltimore Sun, police misconduct accusations cost the public a significant amount of money.

Since 2011, the city has reportedly paid out $5.7 million to settle lawsuits and an equal amount in legal fees for defense of police officers accused of misconduct. Not many know about this, though, because of the poor disclosure of police misconduct, and on this front improvements need to be made. 

In an effort to address the problem of police misconduct, Mayor Rawlings-Blake recently called on lawmakers to pass harsher consequences for officers accused of wrongdoing. She specifically called for felony charges to be allowed in more serious cases which now only involve misdemeanor charges. Two other bills seek to address the problem through expediting the police discipline process in certain cases and widening the scope of review for officer complaints in city limits.

In the context of criminal defense, it is critical to always scrutinize the work of police officers, particularly the way in which officers respect or do not respect constitutional rights. Mistakes by police officers in this area can lead to evidentiary issues that defendants need to address before trial. And, in cases where an officer willfully abuses his or her authority, civil rights remedies may be available. We’ll explore this issue in our next post.

Sources:

Baltimore Sun, “Mayor wants new felony charge to address police assaults,” Luke Broadwater & Yvonee Wenger, Feb. 2, 2015.

Baltimore Sun, “Baltimore officials kept in dark about detective’s brutality case,” Mark Puente, Feb. 10, 2015. 

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