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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78316 Find in a Library
Title: Municipal Liability for Police Misconduct
Journal: Mississippi Law Journal  Volume:51  Issue:1  Dated:(March 1980)  Pages:1-27
Author(s): M P Seng
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 27
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses the circumstances under which a municipality may be held responsible for the misconduct of its police officers in terms of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Abstract: The absolute immunity from civil liability for police misconduct formerly enjoyed by municipal corporations has now been definitively withdrawn by the Supreme Court. In 1978, the Court held in Monell v. Department of Social Services that local governmental entities are persons and therefore are not wholly immune from suit under the applicable statute. Two years later, in Owen v. City of Independence, the Court reaffirmed the rule in Monell and held that municipalities may not assert a qualified immunity, defense, or privilege based upon the good faith of the official involved in the deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution. Three types of circumstances may be identified under which the municipality may be held responsible for misconduct. The first type involves the arrest or detention of a suspect pursuant to a municipal law or policy that is illegal on its face, such as the arrest of a Jehovah's Witness for distributing leaflets. The second type consists of certain abuses of process by law enforcement officials, excluding actual brutality. An abuse of process may occur where an officer errs in determining whether probable cause exists for an arrest or search. The third variety is the traditional police brutality case. To establish liability against a municipality, it is generally required that there be an affirmative link between the actions or policies of the city and the unconstitutional deprivation at issue, e.g., articulated policy favoring or promoting police brutality. Because municipal liability under the statute is such a recent development, many of the reported cases have involved preliminary questions of pleading. Assuming that the pleadings adequately state a cause of action, the plaintiff must then determine what evidence can be garnered to prove the city's responsibility. The likelihood of recovery increases if the conduct is traced to someone high in the chain of command. The statute provides that plaintiffs may sue for redress in either law or equity. Thus, possible remedies against police misconduct include injunctive relief, a declaratory judgment, or damages. The availability of remedies against a municipality in police misconduct cases should result in increased protection for innocent victims. The article provides 138 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Abuse of authority; Complaints against police; Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Defendants; Judicial decisions; Lawsuits; Legal liability; Misconduct; Municipal ordinances; Municipal police; Police Brutality; US Supreme Court
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