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Police Financial, Insurance & Legal Services Press Release

May 29, 2013

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Avoidable Causes of Liability Lawsuits for LEO's from PSDA


Avoidable Causes of Liability Lawsuits for LEO's from PSDA

Law enforcement officials are tasked with stressful jobs, which often put them in harm’s way and require that snap decisions are made.  There are instances in which those snap decisions could later be reviewed and scrutinized as mistakes.  This could result in an administrative action against the officer, a civil lawsuit brought by the public, or a criminal charge against the officer by the municipality.

In every instance the officer involved needs legal advice and defense. With a limited legal defense plan, you could end up spending thousands of dollars out of pocket and waiting for reimbursement.  Also most common legal plans only provide monetary compensation for defense costs, but do not cover awards or settlements.

Public Servant Defense Agency has a career protection plan which is full insurance. We provide first dollar coverage, so you are not required to pay a deductible. PSDA’s plan also has an added indemnity feature which would provide funds to cover an award or settlement, up to the total limit of coverage.   If you are a law enforcement officer, our insurance is as crucial as your body armor.  You wouldn’t leave the department to patrol without your vest. You shouldn’t without knowing your career, your finances and your loved ones are protected. Law enforcement liability issues can arise from a number of instances. PSDA has chosen to highlight two below that are both common and avoidable.

Excessive Force occurs when a civilian claims an officer used more force than was necessary to contain or subdue them.  The best way to prevent this type of liability is to have proper procedures and training in place. These trainings should also include proper defense tactics, so an officer can defend himself without injuring his attacker. These routine trainings act as reminders to encourage conformity in arrests.  Officers should also consider the individual. Does the civilian appear to pose a threat to the officer’s safety, is he/she resisting, and what is the nature of the crime. These three factors can also help determine the appropriate amount of force. The last measure that some departments have gone to, is for officers to wear on body cameras. Some of the most effective are point-of-view video systems which are attached to the officer’s glasses. These help give a clear view of the full arrest, to help disprove false accusations of excessive force.

Unlawful Search and Seizure occurs when an individual alleges they or their property has been unlawfully searched or seized by law enforcement. This could lead to valuable evidence being dismissed during a court hearing. It could also bring a civil lawsuit. To help prevent these cases, departments should have standardized workable policies and training for all officers. With these civil lawsuits, if it is found that the action occurred because of negligence on behalf of the department, the police department or municipality could also be named in the lawsuit. To avoid this, officers should always obtain consent before searching a person or their property. To avoid any conflict or hearsay over whether consent was obtained, it is best to get a signature from the person being searched on the scene.