Police Accountability

Police have the important but difficult job of protecting public safety. But performing this job effectively does not require sacrificing civil liberties.

All police agencies— from the state police on down —need to respect the rights of individuals while enforcing the law.

When allegations of misconduct arise, there must be policies and mechanisms to hold police accountable for their actions. Some of the patterns of behavior that the ACLU-DE is concerned about when it comes to law enforcement are listed below.

How to Keep Police Accountable

As a practical matter, the police often cannot be sued or effectively challenged for an individual incident of bad behavior or misconduct. Circumstances in every case are different. But if a pattern of misconduct is established, the ACLU-DE may be able to intervene.

If you believe that you have witnessed or been subject to police misconduct, please submit a complaint regarding the incident.

Possible types of misconduct by law enforcement

  • Excessive use of deadly or ordinary physical force.
  • Unnecessary or excessive use of a taser.
  • Unnecessary aggression for simple offenses, including conducting a body search when one is not warranted.
  • Racial profiling when conducting traffic stops and discriminatory patterns of arrest.
  • Harassment of the homeless, youth, racial minorities and gays.
  • Intimidation and/or verbal abuse of citizens including the use of racist, sexist and homophobic slurs.
  • Illegal mass stops and arrests or demanding photo IDs without a reason.
  • Surveillance abuse, including spying on political activists such as protesters or environmentalists.
  • Crowd control tactics that infringe on free expression rights and lead to unnecessary use of physical force.
  • Discriminatory non-enforcement of the law, such as the failure to respond to calls in a timely fashion and inadequate investigations of domestic violence, rape or hate crimes in low-income areas.

Be sure to Know Your Rights when interacting with police.