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Personal Vs. Official Capacity In Police Misconduct Lawsuits

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A victim of police misconduct in Maryland can seek compensation from the officers who incurred harm or injury. As the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, the victim can ask for compensatory and punitive damages as well as other legal remedies. In order to bring such a lawsuit, the plaintiff and their attorney must decide whether to sue the officer(s) involved in their personal or official capacity.

Personal Capacity

Personal capacity refers to a police officer’s actions as an individual. These actions are not necessarily representative of the larger police department rules, policies or regulations. When a victim sues a police officer in their personal capacity, it is essentially a lawsuit against the officer directly for their actions.

When an officer’s actions are not representative of existing rules and regulations, then the victim sues the officer directly. The victim would ask the court to hold the officer responsible for any harm or injury inflicted.

Moreover, there are two legal doctrines that allow victims to sue other police officers in their personal capacity.

Bystander Liability

In certain cases of police misconduct, the victim may be able to sue other officers who stood by and allowed such conduct to occur. In order for bystander liability to come into play, there are several requirements. The bystander officers must know about and have a chance to stop police misconduct — yet they chose not to intervene. In such circumstances, the bystander officers may be held liable for the police misconduct in question.

Supervisory Liability

Under specific conditions, a victim of police misconduct may be able to sue a department supervisor or manager. In order for supervisory liability to apply, there are several requirements. The supervisor must know that a subordinate officer is engaged in police misconduct and do nothing about it. In such circumstances, the supervisory officer may be held liable for the police misconduct in question.

Official Capacity

Official capacity refers to a police officer’s formal actions performed while on duty and in accordance with department regulations. This means that the police officer is really just acting as an agent of the larger department and controlling governmental entity. When a victim sues a police officer in their official capacity, it is essentially a lawsuit against the entire police department.

If existing rules, policies or regulations violate constitutional rights, then the victim can essentially sue the larger department or controlling governmental entity. The victim would ask the court to hold the department responsible for any harm or injury inflicted.

Police misconduct lawsuits against an officer in their official capacity generally involve larger-level claims. For example, the victim may assert that the department failed to implement proper training procedures. Or the victim may claim that the department failed to monitor performance and adjust dangerous practices. There are many possibilities in this context.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you or a loved one suffered harm at the hands of police officers, it can be crucial to seek legal counsel an experienced police misconduct lawyer as soon as possible. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Iamele & Iamele, LLP in Baltimore today.

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