12 Things Police Officers Do That Are Illegal 

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Police officers are people, and therefore, they have the right to make mistakes. However, it is easy for lines to get crossed, and in recent years, we learned that some officers go beyond making a simple mistake while on duty. It goes into illegal territory, and while most officers are doing their jobs the best they can, some made headlines over abusing their authority. Here are some examples of unlawful things these officers did. 

Disclaimer: The following examples are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to generalize or cast a negative light on all police officers. It is important to recognize that the majority of law enforcement professionals serve with integrity and dedication. The actions of a few should not overshadow the commitment and hard work of the many who strive to protect and serve their communities lawfully and ethically.

Police brutality


Police brutality is a broad term that describes harm to those arrested and other civilians. It can be the use of excessive force, coerced confessions, and various assaults. One of the most famous examples of police brutality happened in Los Angeles in the 90s. Rodney King was speeding and did not initially stop. Once he did, officers reportedly tasered him, beat him with police batons, and kicked him. A jury acquitted four officers involved, and it triggered riots. 

False imprisonment

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False imprisonment is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. By definition, it happens when law enforcement, without legal justification, restricts your freedom to leave. A Chicago woman, Rachelle Jackson, was falsely imprisoned after trying to help an officer out of a burning car. She sued, and the city had to pay her millions in damages. She spent over ten months in jail. 


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Two NYPD officers were accused of trying to force a woman to perform certain acts. They were arrested and charged. This case happened in 2023, and sadly, it is one of many. There have been hundreds of similar accusations in the past few years, but most officers are still in the force despite many of these incidents being caught on cameras. 

Evidence planting 


Officers can lie to you and state they found evidence against you. This is within their rights and is one of many tactics used to solve cases. But, planting evidence is illegal, and one of the most famous cases happened to William Carter, who did four years in prison after being planted drugs on several separate occasions. 

Excessive force 

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One of the best-known examples of excessive force brought the country to its knees. The killing of George Floyd is not the only example of excessive force use, despite it being prohibited by the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Excessive force is defined as using any force that goes beyond what is necessary to control a situation. 


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Illegal profiling includes police actions based on gender, orientation, religion, economic status, or age instead of identifying if one was involved in criminal activity. Part of profiling includes racial profiling, which is challenging to prove because, in many cases, it is done subconsciously. 

Searches without warrants or consent 


A police officer needs consent to enter your home or go through your phone. However, if it is an abounded property, like a suitcase at the airport, or you left the garage door open, consent is implied. If an officer asks to search your car, you can say no, and the Fourth Amendment protects you. If there is an illegal item an officer already saw, they have the right to seize it due to the plain view doctrine. 

Drinking while on duty


Three Pasadena officers were disciplined for drinking while on duty in 2023. Officers on duty, like others in their workplaces, cannot drink, and if they catch a bad guy while intoxicated, the whole case could be thrown out. There are also attempts to limit drinking among off-duty officers while armed. 



Bribery is the most common type of police corruption. It is a widespread issue in all occupations, but when it comes to those who hold people’s lives in their hands, like doctors or officers, the consequences can be dire. Bribery among officers was well documented in NYC in the 1970s and 1980s. Bribes are not used only to protect criminals or for personal gain but also to obtain evidence or testimonies. 

Tampering with witnesses 


Making threats or bribing witnesses can lead to serious jail time. Trying to influence a witness happens in nearly 70 percent of all cases, and the officers should protect witnesses. However, there are many cases in which they try to influence witnesses for a variety of reasons. 

Forced confessions 


Coerced confessions often result from forceful law enforcement conduct. Regardless of their validity, these confessions are admissible in court. Police have plenty of psychological ploys to get someone to confess legally, but coercion, physical or psychological, is never justified. 


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A Mississippi police officer was arrested for shoplifting earlier in 2024. The officer allegedly stole a pair of shoes while in uniform. This is not an isolated case. Some officers were caught stealing drugs during raids, while others went for the cash straight on the crime scene. 

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Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.