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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 127970 Find in a Library
Title: Domestic Violence: When Do Police Have a Constitutional Duty To Protect
Journal: FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin  Volume:60  Issue:1  Dated:(January 1991)  Pages:27-32
Author(s): D L Schofield
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 6
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
NCJRS Photocopy Services
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Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
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NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
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United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses the extent to which police have a Federal constitutional duty to protect citizens against domestic violence and the circumstances under which police can be held liable under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 for a breach of that duty.
Abstract: The article addresses Section 1983 claims against the police based on an alleged violation of substantive due process, equal protection of the law, and procedural due process. The potential for liability based on these three Federal constitutional claims is discussed in the context of recent court decisions involving suits against the police. The article concludes that as a general rule, the courts have determined that police do not have a constitutionally imposed duty to protect citizens against domestic violence. Although exceptional circumstances may create such a duty and give rise to potential liability under Section 1983, lawsuits against the police for a failure to protect may have a greater likelihood of success in State court under a State-created duty to protect. To guard against liability for failure to protect citizens under Federal and State law, police agencies should promulgate a written policy regarding the handling of domestic assault calls, and they should document the training officers receive in handling domestic violence situations. Any statistical disparity in arrest rates between domestic and non-domestic assaults should be assessed to ensure that such disparity is not caused by any officer bias. 36 footnotes
Main Term(s): Domestic assault; Police policies and procedures
Index Term(s): Civil liability
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