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Litigation and Surviving Lawsuits and Prosecution (From Patrol Response to Contemporary Problems: Enhancing Performance of First Responders Through Knowledge and Experience, P 217-226, 2006, John A. Kolman, ed. -- See NCJ-215624)

NCJ Number
Ronald M. McCarthy
Date Published
10 pages
This chapter explains what steps individual police officers and their departments can take to increase the likelihood that they can prevent or win cases that pertain to an officer's actions, particularly those that involve the use of force.
One step is to train officers in how to prepare for depositions and trials, so as not to be trapped by questions posed by the plaintiff's attorney. Reasonable police actions can be made to appear negligent and irresponsible by a clever attorney when an officer is not trained in how to answer various types of questions. Another step is for departments to develop detailed written policies designed to direct the behaviors of officers in situations likely to involve litigation, such as the use of vehicle and foot pursuits as well as the use of force. This chapter advises, however, that departments err in attempting to set absolute policies designed to cover every conceivable circumstance. The author recommends using the word "generally" in written policies in order to allow for officer's flexible decisionmaking in those incidents that do not precisely fit written policies. A third step is to equip officers with tools for recording their actions. Audiotapes and in-car cameras have contributed significantly to the exoneration of officers in civil cases. One section of this chapter explains how the same factors that enable an officer to survive and succeed in the field also apply to success in civil litigation. The factors are the will to survive, being in excellent physical and mental condition, being tactically sound, avoiding complacency, and controlling fear.