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11-23-06, 09:48 AM #1
Many police officers fear being sued more than being murdered
U.S. law enforcement agencies are struggling with the threat of lawsuits regarding the conduct of officers.
Officials said the threat has become so acute that many officers would rather die than be sued. They said this has seriously hurt law enforcement and endangered the lives of officers.
"Some officers today are more afraid of being sued than being murdered," Olympia Fields, Ill. Police Chief Jeff Chudwin said.
In a recent address to a police convention, Mr. Chudwin said the actions of numerous officers have created additional victims of crimes. He said officers often avoid using deadly force even when it's legal and required.
"If you're putting an offender at the top of the list for safety, then you have your priorities screwed up," Mr. Chudwin told the Association of SWAT Personnel-Wisconsin. "Why are we catering to the person who created the problem?"
Law enforcement officials echoed Mr. Chudwin's assertion, saying only 25 percent of off-duty officers carry a gun. The officials, some of whom work in the FBI, acknowledged that the threat of lawsuits, particularly when backed by civil rights groups, usually block the careers of top officers.
"Police and other agencies have become very ambiguous over the justification of force," an official said. "The threat of political pressure has become a leading factor."
In a speech entitled "Surviving Officer-Involved Shootings and the Aftermath," Mr. Chudwin, a former prosecutor, told a tactical operations seminar of cases in which officers refused to use deadly force.
He presented videos of a plainclothes officer slashed by a knife-wielding suspect during a struggle. The officer gave his pistol to his colleague when trying to subdue the suspect. Mr. Chudwin said the officer, slashed in the face and neck, was afraid his gun would discharge during the struggle.
"He gets praised by the media for showing restraint, but what he did makes my skin crawl," Mr. Chudwin said. "Why didn't he shove the muzzle in the suspect's eye and pull the trigger?"
In another example, an officer responds to a call regarding a man seen in a supermarket with a gun. Mr. Chudwin said the officer refused to leave her patrol car even as the gunman forced a bystander to the ground. The bystander was then shot in the head and killed as the officer watched. In the end, backup police officers killed the gunman. Mr. Chudwin said colleagues of the unresponsive officer believed she "did nothing wrong."
In another case, a SWAT team surrounded a gunman who fired in a residential neighborhood. The team was commanded not to shoot even as the gunman pointed his pistol toward the officers. Finally, the gunman was shot.
In some cases, Mr. Chudwin said, SWAT officers refused special training because they deemed it too dangerous. He said these officers have been influenced by commanders who encourage the use of pepper spray against assailants, which Mr. Chudwin said does not work.
“When you go out on the street, the first thing you say when you get in your patrol car should not be, ‘Oh, God, I might get sued today,’” Mr. Chudwin said. "You really have nothing personally to fear from liability when you follow law, policy and procedure. But fear of liability has led to the murders of police officers."
"If you're more concerned about getting sued than getting murdered, you can't do the job like it needs to be done," he added. "You're a threat to yourself and to others."
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11-23-06, 10:28 AM #2
That about sums it up. Officers now a days are alot more worried about being sued than anything else. You only hear the "tried by 12 than carried by 6" from the "older" cops, no the newer ones."An Unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it." Jeff Cooper
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11-23-06, 12:23 PM #3
It's a shame but sadly I think it's true. I hate this whole "sue happy" world we live in.Calm Like A Bomb...
“A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
11-23-06, 12:26 PM #4
That is so true. Note to newbies: Either put all your assets in the name of your wife or a trusted family member. Show no assets on paper and you can rest a little easier at night. They cannot take what you do not have! Just a thought.
11-23-06, 01:30 PM #5
good point nitestokker!!Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things!
11-23-06, 01:35 PM #6Law enforcement officials echoed Mr. Chudwin's assertion, saying only 25 percent of off-duty officers carry a gun.dlefdal said:
Ummmm, what if I don't like thumbs in my butt?
11-23-06, 09:51 PM #7
It's true. We have had a few radio calls in which the officer is saying shots fired and you can the shots being fired at the same time. He stated that he had a clear shot, but never returned fire. He was worried about being sued for shooting at someone even though they were firing at him, but never hit him. He's still relatively new..
11-23-06, 10:02 PM #8
11-24-06, 12:19 PM #9
I have seen studies that show this over and over. It is a major problem and i think that there should be a law like there is for judges that you cannot sue a police officer for doing his/her job
11-24-06, 01:30 PM #10
I was told by my fto that you are not a real cop till someone sues you, I had my first on Tuesday, i had to mace some dirtbag who pushed my in city hall parking lot before court because he drove a car that plates expired July 2004
11-24-06, 05:51 PM #11--
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Mr. Chudwin said. "You really have nothing personally to fear from liability when you follow law, policy and procedure.
Speaking as someone who has been sued for a line of duty incident the above statement is not true. People can sue for anything they think you did wrong. All they need is some ambulance chaser to file the case and the govt. will settle to avoid media coverage or a trial. I was covered by my states tort claims act and it didn't matter. This law shilded police in my state from civil liability as long as they followed state law. So what happened? The City settled anyway even though had we gone to court we would have won (person had pled guilty in criminal court for what they were then suing for- wrongful imprisonment).
So I never dismiss people who fear suit. I would judge those that let it effect safety.
11-24-06, 09:56 PM #12
Police academies push the civil liabitlity so much in their training. It's pounded in their heads from day 1. You need to learn about civil liability but I think it's brought about the wrong way.
11-25-06, 05:35 AM #13
Confirm, Verify and Document. The only three words to know. Confirm what your policy and the statutes state and MEMORIZE them! Verify that the policies or statutes are still valid and not obsolete. And FREAKING DOCUMENT EVERYTHING (paper, audio, video or all three). If you remember those three things and have a good attorney, no one can touch you.
11-25-06, 06:58 PM #14--
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Many officers assume that if they follow their training, policies, procedures and the laws of their jurisdiction that they will not be successfully sued. The truth is that a lot of agencies are covered by insurance that will ultimately decide the disposition of the case. And they just love to settle.
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