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NCJ Number: 92861 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Enforcement Workshop - Lawsuits Against Police - What Impact Do They Really Have?
Journal: Criminal Law Bulletin  Volume:20  Issue:1  Dated:(January-February 1984)  Pages:49-56
Author(s): C McCoy
Date Published: 1984
Page Count: 8
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A review of case law under 42 U.S.C., the Federal statute designed to prevent the abuse of constitutional rights by law enforcement officers who deny defendants these rights, indicates that the case-by-case litigation strategy of individual civil rights plaintiffs has deterred widespread police abuse.
Abstract: In 1960, the only police personnel generally susceptible to suit were patrol officers, and Monroe v. Pape (1961) allowed officers who claimed they were acting in good faith to duck liability by passing the blame onto their superiors who were immune from suit because of a misapplication of tort doctrine to constitutional adjudication. The Federal courts slowly recognized that the issue did not involve the nature of the employment relationship. In the 1970's, citizens harmed by unconstitutional police actions (that were ultimately traced to departmental policy and callous neglect of what line officers did on the street) successfully recovered damages in Federal court. The web of liability was completed by the 1980's when the Supreme Court held in Monell v. Department of Social Services (1978) that municipalities were proper defendants in Section 1983 suits and in Owen v. City of Independence (1980) that municipalities could not claim good faith defenses to constitutional violations. Furthermore, nonlegal indicators such as dramatic increases in damages awarded to plaintiffs, higher insurance rates, and more media coverage of police misconduct issues suggest that these cases are becoming increasingly important to police administrators. Many police departments have thoroughly reviewed their written procedures and on-duty standards operating procedures to assure they pass constitutional muster and have encouraged compliance by responsible internal reviews of alleged rights violations. Two indicators to help departments assess whether their officers are learning the lessons of litigation are the quality of internal discipline and the quality of communication between city attorneys and police administrators. The paper contains 22 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Civil liability; Lawsuits; Police internal affairs; Police legal limitations
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