What are three reasons citizens may not take legal action when their rights are violated by the police?  

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no question that some people will not avail themselves of their legal rights when they feel their rights have been violated by the police.  There can be so many reasons for this, but three come immediately to mind. 

First, in spite of the media attention focused on police misbehavior in recent times, there are still people who are ignorant of what their rights are, and thus they do not know that their rights may have been violated.  A person who is illiterate, for example, may have no idea that there are avenues to pursue. Some people may think that the way the police treat them is simply how it is supposed to be.

Second, a person who believes his or her rights to have been violated by the police may fear some form of retribution for having complained.  A complaint or an allegation against an officer is not made in secret. The department is aware.  This means that the complainant and his or her family are being protected by the very institution being complained of.  Police are loyal to one another, and it is not completely unreasonable to fear that one may be subject to excessive traffic stops or even a delay in the police coming when called for an emergency. In a small town in particular, the person who complains may very well feel this is a risk not worth taking. This does not necessarily mean this happens, but certainly, such concern is not completely misplaced. 

Third, a mistrust of the system may lead to the feeling that pursuing one's legal rights is futile. There have been so many instances in which police have been alleged to have violated people's rights and they have been acquitted or found not liable.  These make the news with a loud splash and are likely to make some people feel that it is hopeless to take on "the system." 

I'm sure there are other motives for refraining from pursuing one's legal rights against police action, but certainly these three are part of the picture.