Police Civil Liability

The police force is entitled to apply force where necessary with reasonable care. This is a delicate task entrusted to police officers in that in situations where they abuse their power of force, there arise numerous complaints of misconduct from the community. The police are the principal agents of social control in an independent society. Thus, they come into contact with the citizens more regularly than any other agency in the criminal Justice system. Almost every resident of a nation has had a direct dealing with a police officer at one point or another in his or her lifetime. Because of this high interaction with the citizens and more visibility, the police are always under intense scrutiny when performing their duties (Kathryn  Craig 1999).

Lawrence and Robert (1988), explain that an imperative aspect of any people oriented establishment is its organization structure and also managerial practices or styles, and the police outfit has been accused for years for its ineffective organization and administration. They lack competent leadership, they are not prepared with well established principles and they resist change. In addition, they fail to deploy and employ personnel well and efficiently and do not adequately apply scientific advances that would promote the law enforcement (Lawrence  Robert 1988). This means that the police force still has a lot to learn about its organization and management of diverse departments which would enhance their duties as law enforcers.

In their daily duties, the police are likely to enforce an array of laws, and of most concern are criminal laws, traffic laws and ordinances. Criminal laws are misdemeanors and felonies traffic laws include moving and non moving violations while ordinances include wrong doings such as violations of permit requirements. Enforcement of each of these laws requires specific conduct from the police (Lawrence  Robert, 1988).

The functions of the law to duties of policing are provided for in the statutes formed in the constitution. This creates a distinctive relationship between the police force and the law itself in that the power, conduct and duties of the police officer stem directly as a result of the law. To avoid possible lawsuit situations, it is essential for every police officer to have an understanding of the constitution and the guarantees as they pertain in the process of policing. This can be done through training, workshops and briefings by senior officers. This shows how important it is for every police to be familiar with the constitution as well as it repercussions for policing (Lawrence  Robert 1988).

Police pursuits and common legal responsibility
Statistics in the U.S show that more than 40 of most motor vehicle police chases culminate in collisions and these cause almost 300 deaths of police officers, offenders, as well as innocent third party individuals each year (Chris  Dominick, 2001). Since most police pursuits result in accidents and injuries, agencies and officers end up being subjects of civil lawsuits. Initiated in state or federal courts, the lawsuits result cumulatively in case law that forces law enforcement agencies to develop pursuit policies. The U.S. Supreme Court has always issued rulings that have changed the threshold of negligence before an agency or officer can be held liable, which impacts police agencies across the United States (Chris  Dominick, 2001).

In their article Chris  Dominick (2001), make a recommendation that because of the critical nature of police pursuit situations, heads of law enforcement agencies must establish an appropriate policy governing the actions of their personnel during such incidents. There should be consideration first and foremost of the constraints and allowances set forth by state and federal statutes and court decisions appropriate within their jurisdiction. There should also be a creation of policies that balances the necessity to apprehend offenders in the interests of justice with the need to safeguard citizens from the risks linked to police pursuits. The policies should also be able to protect the financial wellbeing of the community based upon possible losses of public dollars due to successful proceedings against the group because of law enforcement practices considered inappropriate by the courts of law (Chris  Dominick, 2001).

Adopting a policy related to that of another agency does not easily resolve the law agencies dilemma because a variety of philosophies exist among the pursuit policies of law enforcement agencies. U.S. federal courts have appraised various police chase cases using diverse standards of behavior and the courts regularly have appraised the agencys chase policy before making any decision. The policy or lack of it could impact the result of a civil action (Chris  Dominick, 2001).

Case Study
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit examined the concern of whether police agencies can use police pursuits to arrest traffic violators. In the case of Galas v McKee, the court reviewed a case based in Nashville Tennessee, involving the police pursuit of a 13-year-old traffic violator. On the 16th of March 1983, Officer McKee from Metropolitan Nashville Police Department noticed a vehicle going beyond the speed limit. Officer McKee gave a chase, which attained 100 miles per hour, on a police motorbike. The pursuit ended when the car veered off the road and crashed. The driver sustained severe and lifelong injuries (Chris  Dominic, 2001).

The district court gave a ruling in favor of the police officer and the police department. The parents of the young driver appealed the decision and the court of appeals ruled that that the minimum interruption of a traffic lawbreakers Fourth Amendment right brought about by the officers partaking in a high-speed chase does not overshadow the longstanding police practice which we consider essential to a coherent scheme of police powers and the use of high speed pursuits to arrest traffic violators is not awkward and, therefore, not a violation of the Fourth Amendment (Chris  Dominick ,2001).

This gives the officers the right to engage in high speed pursuits as a satisfactory method to apprehend traffic violators. The court further reviewed the departments policy concerning traffic violators and police pursuits and concluded that, the policy provides, at most, that officers may pursue, that is, follow, suspects. The guideline on following traffic lawbreakers who decline to obey an officers command to pull to the side of the road does not contravene the right to life. This court acknowledged the use of police pursuits to capture traffic violators (Chris  Dominick, 2001).

The chief officers of every law enforcement agency must propagate a written vehicle pursuit policy that provides clear regulation for that agencys officers. Such policy should include statements that officers will not maintain a pursuit once the risk of danger to the officer and public brought by the pursuit exceeds the potential danger to the public should the suspect remain at large (Chris  Dominick, 2001).

Chris and Dominick (2001), add that officers assessing the danger must also put into consideration the nature of the violation committed by the offender, as well as environmental circumstances such as type of area, weather, and intensity of the traffic congestion. Additionally, based upon the uniqueness of the particular agency, the area it encompasses, and the people it serves, directors of police agencies may put into consideration restrictions in pursuit to cases in which the offender has been involved in serious offenses.

Moreover, agency directors also must observe state statutes and state level court decisions relevant within their jurisdiction. Although civil lawsuits will continue to be filed, directors of agencies can protect their agencies by proactively revaluating their agencys pursuit guidelines and providing sufficient training regarding the policy and motor vehicle pursuit in general (Chris  Dominick, 2001).

Policing misconduct is one of the oldest problems and this is viewed as any behavior that violates the acceptable or distinct norms under social order, the police organization and both criminal and civil law like being involved in corruption. These can cost officers their jobs and attract a penalty of jail terms. This also affects the agency through ineffectiveness and having a poor image to the society. It also creates fear and mistrust in their respective jurisdiction. This means that controls and regulations must be established which include agency tools such as strict executive orders, discipline, quality supervision, have special investigative units as well as integrated trainings. It is also advisable to educate the public and investigative bodies as well as police agencies. This would promote and encourage ethical behaviors and assist in the fight against police misconducts.


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