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Overview of Civil Liability-Chapter 1

Elsevier Inc.
DOI: 10.1016/b978-1-42246-139-6.50004-5
  • Education
  • Law


Publisher Summary This chapter examines the prevalence of civil liability in police and correctional work. Criminal justice personnel and agencies continue to be targets of civil liability. While the number of citizen and prisoner filings is high, officials often prevail in these actions. Research also reveals that a majority of lawsuits are settled out of court, and it appears that this trend is increasing. Civil litigation is costly, but many of the judgments have been instrumental in providing more resources to perform daily duties, increasing personnel training, and assisting in developing more efficient policies and procedures to guide officer decision making. Research on liability issues shows the trends and impact that lawsuits have on criminal justice agencies in terms of money paid out and operational and policy changes. In response, scholarly research has documented the changes in the nature of civil litigation and the differing perceptions of civil liability between officers and supervisors. While education affects an officer's perception regarding civil liability, most officers report that such litigation is a barrier to effective law enforcement. Research on civil liability helps to pinpoint areas in which lawsuits are more likely to be filed. Officers and administrators should endeavor to work toward proactive measures to minimize lawsuits in these subject areas. Research suggests that quality efforts made in recruitment, training, workplace policies, implementing an early warning and strong disciplinary system, and maintaining a liability risk management program can assist in reducing departmental liability. Civil lawsuits can be bothersome and stressful, and the outcome can be unpredictable. Administrators must remain committed to providing personnel with training, guidance, and legal updates to better understand how to perform their sworn duties. Officers must remain committed to performing their duties within the framework of the law. Maintaining this commitment can assist in defending the next legal action that the officer or department faces.

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