Examining Different Types of Liability for Police Misconduct Claims
When a person suffers harm or injury due to police misconduct, the officers involved can face civil liability in a variety of ways. Whether an officer actually causes harm or injury — or simply looks the other way — they can face liability in a personal capacity. Additionally, entire police departments can face liability in an official capacity for causing harm at an organizational level. Either way, the injured party can file a police misconduct lawsuit to recover damages and other compensation.
Personal capacity refers to the alleged wrongdoing or violation of a specific police officer. In this context, an injured victim claims that a police officer caused their injury. Common types of personal capacity liability include excessive force and other types of assault crimes.
In certain situations, however, police officers can face personal capacity liability even if they did not commit the alleged wrongdoing. As detailed below, bystander and supervisory officers who knew about wrongdoing and failed to act can face penalties as well.
Bystander liability is a type of personal capacity claim that addresses officers who knew about wrongdoing and failed to intervene. In these cases, the bystander police officer can face the same liability for police misconduct as the wrongdoer.
To prove a claim under bystander liability, the injured party must prove that a police officer:
- Knew, or had a reason to know, that another officer was violating constitutional rights;
- Had a chance to intervene or otherwise prevent the violation(s); and
- Decided not to act or intervene.
Supervisory liability is a type of personal capacity claim that addresses supervisory officers who failed to correct any wrongdoing by their subordinates. If a supervisory officer knows about such wrongdoing and looks the other way, then they can face the same liability for police misconduct as the wrongdoer.
To prove a claim under supervisory liability, the injured party must prove that a supervisory officer:
- Knew that their subordinate(s) were violating constitutional rights; and
- Turned a blind eye to the constitutional violation(s); or
- Authorized their subordinate(s) to commit the constitutional violation(s).
Official capacity claims relate to organizational failures by entire police departments. In other words, a police department is enforcing polices or procedures that violate constitutional rights.
Examples of official capacity liability include a police department’s failure to:
- Train officers to avoid constitutional violations;
- Discipline officers for committing constitutional violations;
- Rectify policies or customs that violate constitutional rights; and
- Supervise officers to ensure adherence to organizational policies.
Official capacity claims only exist at the federal level. Maryland state law does not recognize a cause of action for police misconduct in this capacity.
Let Us Help You with Your Case
If you need legal help with a police misconduct claim in Maryland, it can be vastly helpful to speak with a knowledgeable police misconduct lawyer. The lawyers at Iamele & Iamele, LLP in Baltimore, Maryland, feature validated aptitudes with various police misconduct. If you need legal help in this area of the law, contact us today for a free initial consultation.