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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 142027 Find in a Library
Journal: National Bulletin on Police Misconduct  Dated:(1992)  Pages:special supplement
Author(s): P J Martinek
Date Published: 1992
Page Count: 4
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A major area of litigation against police officers and their employers involves allegations that police use excessive and unreasonable force; these suits are generally brought in Federal court under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act.
Abstract: When excessive force lawsuits are successful, they can result in very high damage awards by juries wanting to punish police officers for abusing their power. Such punitive damages are recoverable under Section 1983 when the conduct of the party involved is shown to be motivated by vicious intent or when the conduct involves reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of others. Police officers and their employers can be held liable in civil suits even when no criminal conduct is found. Excessive force actions pose an additional threat to police officers and police departments because they can be successfully asserted by both innocent and guilty parties. The main issue in excessive force lawsuits is whether the police officer used more force than was reasonably necessary to seize or detain an individual. The conduct of the individual against whom force is used can be critical in determining whether a constitutional violation has occurred. While courts may be more forgiving toward police officers who are confronted with dangerous individuals and situations, courts will treat police officers more harshly when targets of their actions are innocent or engaged in nonviolent conduct. The extent of injury to the alleged victim of police brutality also seems to be an important consideration in determining whether a citizen's civil rights have been violated. By treating complaints of unlawful force seriously and punishing those officers who engaged in unwarranted behavior, police departments can effectively protect themselves from brutality-based damage suits.
Main Term(s): Police Brutality
Index Term(s): Civil liability; Civil rights; Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Lawsuits; Police Brutality
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