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NCJ Number: 97879 Find in a Library
Title: Lawsuits Against Police - What Impact Do They Really Have? (From Police Management Today, P 55-64, 1985, James J Fyfe, ed. - See NCJ-97876)
Author(s): C McCoy
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 10
Sponsoring Agency: International City/County Management Assoc
Washington, DC 20002
Sale Source: International City/County Management Assoc
777 North Capitol Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Increased procedural review, disciplinary actions, careful policy training, and a steady exchange of information between city attorneys and police all suggest that the threat of civil lawsuits deters police from illegal conduct.
Abstract: Police misconduct litigation aims to deter future wrongdoing as well as compensate victims. The case law under 42 U.S.C. 1983 has evolved sufficiently so that a seamless web of liability may be applied to defendants on each level of a police department's hierarchy. Police personnel on all levels passed liability onto the immune city until 1978 when the Supreme Court in Monell v. Department of Social Services held that municipalities were also proper defendants in Section 1983 suits. Two results of police misconduct litigation have been a dramatic increase in compensation awarded victims and a steep increase in the costs of insurance coverage for police departments and municipalities. From the insurer's viewpoint, the only alternative to astronomical rates is for the municipality and the police department to take decisive action to reduce the risk of adverse judgments. While statistics offer little information on the impact of court judgments and insurance preimums on actual police practices, many police chiefs support restrictive policies on the use of deadly force and training programs in shooting policy and skills. The greatest impact is felt in communities where police have thoroughly reviewed felt in communities where police have thoroughly reviewed their written policies and on-duty procedures to assure they pass constitutional muster and where police supervisors have encouraged compliance by straightforward and resolute internal departmental review of alleged rights violations. Meaningful recordkeeping of each officer's 'rap rights sheet' is one indicator of the quality of internal discipline. Another impact measure is whether city attorneys report frequently and fully to police administrators about all police misconduct cases. One phenomenon may indicate that civil rights litigation is checking unconstitutionality: unlike the prison system, no police department has ever been placed in its entirety under court administration to force it to function constitutionally. The article includes 22 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Civil liability; Deterrence effectiveness; Police insurance; Police legal limitations; Police policies and procedures
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