Police Misconduct

Many people are asking what can be done about police violence, false arrests and other police misconduct at the demonstrations. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is collecting information about the misconduct by the various police agencies, and considering what legal and/or political action might be effective and feasible regarding civil rights violations.

If you have been subject to or witnessed police misconduct, please fill out an NLG police misconduct report (PDF | DOC), or simply send the NLG your contact information (see below.)  Please do not send videos or photos, but if you have video or photo evidence of police misconduct let us know and give us your contact info. You can send us forms or your contact info either by:

  • faxing it to 415-285-5066
  • emailing it to carlos@nlgsf.org
  • dropping it off during regular business hours at the NLG Office, 558 Capp St (between 20th and 21st) in SF, attention Carlos.

Please note that beginning a civil investigation (either through a lawsuit or through filing an official complaint with the Police Department or the Civilian Complaint Review Board) while people have open criminal cases can be a bad idea. However, it is very important to act quickly to preserve evidence that might be needed in a potential civil lawsuit, and there are strict deadlines for filing civil claims. It is best to discuss the timing, risks and benefits of initiating a civil action, and how to best preserve evidence, with an NLG or other lawyer who specializes in police misconduct and political cases, as soon as possible after the incident. This guide explains how to document your injuries, but is not a substitute for speaking with a lawyer.

Sharing Stories and Video

We encourage people to let the world know about police violence. However, it is important to review any information that is made public to ensure it does not contain details that could be used against people in their criminal cases. Feel free to post any footage or stories of what the police did, but please consider removing any details showing or describing your or others’ actions. The police monitor livestreams, YouTube, social media and political blogs and websites for intelligence that could help them prosecute activists. Even if it doesn’t seem important, careless material you post could get you or other people in trouble.

What the NLG is doing

The National Lawyers Guild is collecting information on the police misconduct, and considering what legal and/or political action might be effective and feasible. We are working with Berkeley Copwatch on a People’s Investigation and potential litigation re the BPD response on December 6, 2014, specifically, but also want reports on misconduct by CHP, OPD and the other agencies. We are also following up under settlement agreements which require OPD — as well as police agencies called in to provide “mutual aid” to OPD — to follow a comprehensive Crowd Control Policy that was written by the NLG and ACLU. The settlement agreements are binding federal court orders obtained in the NLG’s successful lawsuits on behalf of Justice for Oscar Grant demonstrators who were arrested on Nov. 5, 2010 (Spalding v. City of Oakland), and Occupy Oakland demonstrators who were injured on Oct. 25 and Nov. 2, 2011 (Campbell v. City of Oakland). The Crowd Control Policy prohibits the use of so-called “less lethal” munitions for crowd control, sets strict standards for use of force and for dispersal and mass arrests of demonstrators and other crowds, requires OPD to take responsibility for mutual aid following the Policy, and mandates that OPD cite and release those arrested for minor offenses without booking them in jail (if they have ID and no warrants or holds.) The Spalding settlement also requires the Alameda County Sheriff to use an expedited procedure to cite and release eligible mass arrestees who are brought to the jail (i.e. by other police agencies.) The NLG can ask the court to enforce these agreements, without necessarily starting the lawsuit process over again, if we have sufficient evidence to do so.