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False Complaints

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  • False Complaints

    An officer on my shift received a complaint for being rude and conduct unbecoming an officer. My department investigated this complaint and held that it was with out foundation and did not happen as the complainant advised. The complainant filled out a written statement and signed it. This form only asks for the date/time of the incident,officer's name and what happend. It then requires the complainant to sign their name under the heading "I do state this is to be true".

    If you receive a complaint that is investigated by your department and found to be false is there any recourse that you can take against the complainant?

  • #2
    If they accuse the officer of a criminal violation & if they lie about it, in my state they can be charged with filing a false police report (a misdemeanor). But, I've never seen it done.

    An attorney told me that if you (the officer) don't lose any money (as a result of their flase allegation), then you have no basis to sue them in court e.g. a defamation of character lawsuit.


    • #3
      We have arrested a few for false criminal complaints. I had the option of having a woman arrested who filed a false complaint on me, but I let it go. Never wanted to see the *%&$@ again.

      As far as non-criminal complaints, we just let them go.


      Tights and a cape, the true uniform of a crime fighter.
      Tights and a cape, the true uniform of a crime fighter.


      • #4
        Ain't it fun to be a Cop? So many chances for adventure, danger and reprecussions(spelling is a problem for some reason).

        Instramental in the prosecution of criminals. You also have the opportunity to act in the capacity of a defendant in attempts to presecute you.

        Our complaintants have a sworn statement that is necessary for them to complete in order to file a complaint against an Officer.

        It also clearly states that the statement becomes a legal document. IF the filing of the document is found to be a false, the Officer being charged, has the right to charge the individual(s) with filing a false statement. If found to be guilty of filing such a statement, he/she is punishable by law. If found guilty of filing a false statement you can be charged as a misdomeanor. This charge carries a fine of no more than $500.00 and/or 6 months in jail.

        The wording may not be exact. I don't have a copy here at home, but you get the idea.

        You can not believe the paperwork this has saved.

        I'm lost...I've gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, please ask me to wait. Thanks, David!

        [This message has been edited by David (edited 12-05-2000).]
        Take your hands off the trunk of the car and I'll make your Birth Certificate just another worthless document!!


        • #5
          I could be wrong about this, but I believe that a law was passed in California that specifically ALLOWS an officer to bring a civil suit against someone who "maliciously files a false complaint."

          This was in the works about the time I was retiring, but I think I heard that it had passed. Of course, most of the time the dirt bags that file these complaints don't have either a pot or a window so trying to get money out of them is a little tough.

          "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining". . . Judge Judy
          6P1 (retired)
          6P1 (retired)


          • #6
            Same in Nevada. It is a specific criminal offense and there is civil recourse.

            [This message has been edited by DesertRat (edited 12-05-2000).]


            • #7
              In Texas if you make a false complaint claiming the officer violated the law it is a misdemeanor. You WILL be arrested.

              There is no set procedure that I know of on false complaints of a civil nature.

              I have only heard of one officer near me that has brought a citizen to court on a false complaint. He is a former Bryan PD officer and was threatened with a lawsuit by a young college punk. The officer hired his own attorney but before he could file his suit the kid's lawyer offerred a cash settlement.

              "Trust me. I'm from the government, I'm here to help."
              "Trust me. I'm from the government, I'm here to help."


              • #8
                I have to check, but I think FL passed a similar law in the past year or two.

                I do know of some cases where people have been prosecuted for doing it. I have one example on video. The tape of the actual stop and the video taped complaint from the woman. Guess what? Her version is not even close to reality.

                In any case, fun as sueing them may be, chances are, the dirtbag doesn't have anything of value anyway.

                Perseverate In Pugna


                • #9
                  Can any one give me a link or set out a copy of these "false statement" statutes. I think our city attorney would be open to reviewing them. Thanks in advance/Pat


                  • #10
                    All Voluntary Statement forms we use have a statement similar to : " False statements are punishable as a Class A Misdemeanor pursuant to section 210.45 of the Penal Law".
                    NY's "False Statement" sections read as follows ( I can't find a link, so I'll enclose them here):
                    210.35. Making an apparently sworn false statement in the second degree.
                    A person is guilty of making an apparently sworn false statement in the second degree when (a) he subscribes a written instrument knowing that it contains a statement which is in fact false and which he does not believe to be true and (b) he intends or believes that such instrument will be uttered or delivered with a jurat affixed thereto, and (c) such instrument is uttered or delivered with a jurat affixed thereto.
                    This is a Class A Misd.
                    Making an apparently sworn false written statement in the first degree.
                    A person is (I'll abbreviate here) this crime when he commits the crime of making a false statement 2nd , and when (a) the written instrument involved is one for which as oath is required by law and (b) the false statement contained therein is made with intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his official functions , and (c) such false statement is material to the action, proceeding or matter involved.
                    This is a Class E Felony
                    210.45 Making a punishable false written statement. A person is guilty of(Aabbreviating again) this when he knowingly makes a false statement, which he does not believe to be true, in a written instrument bearing a legally authorized form notice to the effect that false statements made therein a re punishable. This is a Class A Misdemeanor.
                    Hope this helps ya.


                    • #11
                      Here is AZ law on it.

                      13-2907.01. False reporting to law enforcement agencies; classification

                      A. It is unlawful for a person to knowingly make to a law enforcement agency of either this state or a political subdivision of this state a false, fraudulent or unfounded report or statement or to knowingly misrepresent a fact for the purpose of interfering with the orderly operation of a law enforcement agency or misleading a peace officer.

                      B. Violation of this section is a class 1 misdemeanor.


                      [This message has been edited by CaptSchmooze (edited 12-06-2000).]
                      Tights and a cape, the true uniform of a crime fighter.


                      • #12
                        In California, public officials, including law enforcement officers, were prohibited from bringing defamation actions for false citizen complaints. California Civil Code section 47.5 changed this rule to allow law enforcement officers to bring defamation actions against citizens who make false complaints of misconduct. The sectiion reads as follows:

                        47.5. Notwithstanding Section 47, a peace officer may bring an action for defamation against an individual who has filed a complaint with that officer's employing agency alleging misconduct, criminal conduct, or incompetence, if that complaint is false, the complaint was made with knowledge that it was false and that it was made with spite, hatred, or ill will. Knowledge that the complaint was false may be proved by a showing that the complainant had no reasonable grounds to believe the statement was true and that the complainant exhibited a reckless disregard for ascertaining the truth.

                        Unfortunately, this law was found to be unconstitutional by a fedral district court located in the Central District of California. In essence, the court ruled that the law violates First Amendment guarantees of free speech by treating complaints against law enforcement officers differently than complaints against other public officials. This violates the principle of content neutrality. Gritchen v. Collier, 73 F.Supp.2d 1148 (C.D.Cal. 1999).

                        California Penal Code section 148.6 makes it a misdemeanor to make a false complaint against a peace officer. The validity of this section is presently being challenged in federal court in an ACLU backed law suit. Given the holding of Gritchen v. Collier, I do not expect the law to survive this challenge.

                        In short, California law enforcement officers are without recourse for false complaints unless and until the California legislature rectifies the constitutional defects in these sections.


                        • #13
                          In case you need to address this with your local officials, I would like to point out a couple of issues.

                          Until this federal court decision, I had thought the law was fairly well constructed to withstand constitutional challenges. Specifically, the law appeared to be drafted with New York Times v. Sullivan issues firmly in mind.

                          In my opinion, the decision that this statute violates the principle of content neutrality is either a deliberately strained interpretaion of the law or is a complete misunderstanding of the law in this area.

                          In the past, the courts have used the principle of content neutrality to strike laws that favored one side of an argument over another. The theory underlying this is that, consistant with the First Amendement right of free speech, government may not impose penalties on one viewpoint while allowing the other viewpoint to speak without sanctions. For instance, government may not punish those who speak racial epithets if it does not punish those who speak for racial tolerance. This would provide an unfair advantage to one side of the argument.

                          In the case of law enforcement officers, citizens may freely sue an officer who defames the citizen. In California, however, the officer is denied any recourse against the citizen. In effect, the government has now licensed one side of the argument to fight freestyle while prohibiting the other side from fighting at all. To me, this seems to violate content neutrality by favoring those who make false complaints against officers.

                          Granted, other public officials were not given similar rights. However, this issue does not seem logically related to the principle of content neutrality. Other public officials are simply not parties to the defamation actions between law enforcement officers and citizens. Their side of the argument is not being penalized because they just do not have a side in this particular argument.

                          Anyway, it's food for thought. And now, I think I will get down off my soap box before I fall and break my idiot neck.

                          [This message has been edited by Underdog (edited 12-06-2000).]


                          • #14

                            Here's your link for the Texas law.

                            "Trust me. I'm from the government, I'm here to help."
                            "Trust me. I'm from the government, I'm here to help."


                            • #15

                              In the State of Louisiana, if someone files a report that is found to be false against an officer, the officer involved has the option to file charges for Criminal Mischief by Filing a False Police Report. Here in Alexandria, LA we have done that several times with it being upheld in court.
                              Attitude is a reflection of leadership.


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