PART XII - PEACE OFFICER LIABILITY
1. a.- b. See handouts - “Comparison of Compensatory and Punitive Damages.”
c. Insurance companies cannot and will not pay punitive damages.
d. See glossary definition of the terms “intentional tort” and “negligent tort.”
e. See handouts - “Torts and Civil Rights Actions.”
f. Ignorance of the requirements of the law can never establish good faith as long as it is reasonable for a normal, well-trained officer to know them.
g. See RSMo
563.016 or The Missouri Criminal Code: A
Handbook for Law Enforcement Officers, Chapter 3, “Justification.”
“The justifications provided by the Criminal Code apply only to criminal liability. If a person’s conduct is justified under one of the Code provisions he will have a defense to the criminal charge, but this does not necessarily mean he will be immune from civil liability.”
2. Qualified immunity
Generally if a police officer can show that his actions were arguably reasonable under existing law, the burden is on the plaintiff to show that a reasonable officer in the defendant's position would have known that his conduct was unlawful, either by the extreme circumstances or by existing case law. The court will look at the case in the best light for the plaintiff and decide if given the totality of the circumstances, the hypothetical reasonable officer would have found the defendant officers actions unreasonable. If the plaintiff cannot meet this burden, then the claim is subject to disposition in favor of the officer.
Qualified immunity therefore immunizes an officer from liability if his conduct was not in violation of clearly defined principles of Constitutional Law. This is not a defense against civil suit, introduced during the trial. It is a before trial analysis, and prevents the civil suit taking place if the officer is found to have qualified immunity. And it is not absolute immunity, which would prevent all civil litigation against the officer.
One fairly sure way of establishing that an officer’s actions were reasonable is to show that they were justified in the Criminal Code. This will only work if the Code is consistant with case law. And it does not remove the officer’s responsibility to avoid application of the existing law that is unreasonable because it is extreme.
Police officers do not have absolute immunity from civil litigation – as judges do – and therefore can be sued for their official actions, but where reasonable action can be shown, civil suits can be avoided.
3. a. – f. Objective is its own source.
4. a. – f. See handouts - “Defenses Against Common Police Liability Issues.”
note: At least an hour should be used to discuss this handout.