What is the FBI's role in excessive use of force investigations?

Members of FBI Jacksonville Civil Rights Task Force explain Color of Law

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Anytime there is a reported allegation of excessive force by a law enforcement officer, that officer’s agency or an independent agency will investigate the officer’s actions at the state level. But sometimes, the FBI will launch a federal investigation to determine if the officer’s actions violated a person’s civil rights. 

At a public forum attended by dozens of Jacksonville residents and local law enforcement officers Wednesday night, members of the FBI Jacksonville Civil Rights Task Force talked openly about the "Color of Law." It's a term that refers to police officers who allegedly abuse their powers to enforce laws against people while violating a person’s civil rights in the process. That happens when an officer uses unjustified excessive force while arresting someone.

"One of the biggest topics that comes up is excessive use of force by police officers," said FBI Assistant Special Agent Carlton, the only agent News4Jax was given permission to identify. "For me, the best way to take care of that is education, to understand what it is and to understand the different perspectives in those encounters."

While there are laws on the books to protect citizens from civil right violations by police, Jacksonville resident Bernard Hayward said, "We have to exercise our rights to do it and be knowledgeable and not just assume but be informed."

Being informed means recognizing when you think your rights have been violated and reporting the alleged violation. 

"If it’s happened to you, it may have happened to someone else," Peeples said. "But if people are not reporting it, it’s hard for whatever agency that claim came from to take appropriate steps to make sure it’s not happening again."

The FBI says allegations of civil rights violations are curbed when law enforcement and the communities they serve have a good working relationship.

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