Most citizen complaints against police are unfounded. People working in law enforcement are not surprised by this statement. Those outside of police work are probably forming their arguments as they read.
However, police supervisors and commanders around the country are likely to agree with this assessment since they are required to investigate the grievances. For every officer that engages in willful misconduct, there are thousands being victimized by false accusations.
It has been our collective experience at Law Enforcement Today that more than 90% of the citizen complaints fielded via letter, complaint form, or in person at the front counter of the police department, are cleared unfounded, not-sustained, or the officer is exonerated.
There is a recent case in the news from Ohio that is a classic example. Although it’s considered a “review” on social media, if there were any merit, the police agency would be bound by law to investigate. Even in this format, someone at the department had to take time to counter the false accusation.
The Canton Police Department received a public complaint (review) regarding one of their officers. According to Fox News, the public review said, “Watch for Jones Jr. badge number 157. Was a jerk to my wife and must have needed to make quota she was driving and didn’t know her lights weren’t on he treated her like trash and was disrespectful. Watch out for this guy.”
So what exactly did the officer do to be categorized a “jerk?” Moreover, what did he do to treat her like “trash.”
Well, after watching the video, we learned he cordially said, “Hi there, ” before explaining the reason she was stopped, which included speed and driving without headlights.
The woman chuckled at her dismay, and even said, “thanks” when the officer instructed her to “hold tight for one second,” as he returned to the patrol car.
Upon returning to the offender’s vehicle, the officer referred to her by name before politely explaining his actions, which included a warning for speed, but a citation for the headlight violation. He ended the encounter by reminding her to turn the lights on, and asked if she had any questions.
The officer treated her with professionalism and respect. He ended the contact with “You have a good night, all right?” in a tone that was authentic and genuine. The entire contact last 1 minute 35 seconds.
Canton Police Department released the video last week to clear the officer’s name. It appeared on their Facebook page.
The original complainant, who chose to publicly impugn Officer Jones Jr. #157 with his ridicule, eventually removed his complaint, according to WKYC.
While a small percentage of police officers manage to find trouble, the reality is that this scenario is typical, and never receives public attention. We’d venture to say that police officers are the most needed, yet most complained about profession.
We are not sure want prompted this man to action. After all, he wasn’t present during the traffic stop. But that didn’t stop him from “splashing mud” on an undeserving public servant.
Fortunately, the demand for accountability resulting in more dash and body cams will typically demonstrate something far different than assertions made by an emotionally charged citizen willing to embellish the truth or outright lie.