10-4: Law Enforcement Liability
There are several policies and procedures in law enforcement. Departments across the country have a variety of documentation outlining every conceivable scenario that an officer may encounter in the line of duty. A reason for implementing these diligent guidelines is to reduce the exposure to liability, which officers confront every day.
Law enforcement officers know no alternative but to respond to dangerous situations on a daily basis, which is challenging from a risk management perspective. Law enforcement liability usually occurs when officers are accused of violating a legal mandate. Most often, claims arise from specific areas in an officer’s everyday duties such as use of force, search and seizure during an arrest, pursuit and emergency vehicle operations and off-duty conduct to name a few.
There are two important factors that need to be implemented in order to reduce the exposure of liability for a police department or agency. First is through proper policy development. A current policy manual that’s required to be followed and lived by every day. Secondly, training that specifically addresses the high-risk areas that can limit the liability for a department and their officer.
Several departments have a policy manual in place that addresses the high-risk issues. However, it’s important for departments and agencies to confirm when the documentation was last reviewed and/or revised by legal counsel. The responsibility is placed on the department to make certain its manual is up to date with new laws and court decisions to not only protect themselves, but the people of their community as well.
In order for a policy manual to function properly, it’s crucial to support it with a strong training program through internal and external resources. There are several educational resources that can support the policy language in a manual and accommodate the schedules of a department and its officers and staff.
The duty of an officer is extremely dangerous and the room for error is boundless. It’s important for an agency to establish standards of behavior to protect itself and its officers, specifically in high-risk areas.
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