Negligent police shootings, which involve an officer's failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation, are frequently actionable. In Kirkland v. District of Columbia, for example, officers fatally shot a fleeing suspect who was unarmed. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that a jury could reasonably have found that the officers acted negligently.
Sometimes officers approach a suspect in a way that enhances the risk that deadly force will be required. For example, in Young v. City of Killeen, Texas, a police officer shot and killed a man who reached down to the seat or floorboard of his car. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's judgment that the officer acted negligently by, among other things, having ordered the man to exit his car rather than having ordered him to remain in the car with his hands in plain view.
The standard for whether force is excessive is whether the amount used is reasonable. In Figueroa-Torres v. Toledo-Davila, for example, police jumped on a man when he tried to swallow drugs he bought, hit and kicked him, and he subsequently died in their custody. The First Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court that if an officer is liable for using excessive force, he or she is also liable for all injuries proximately caused by such force.
Deadly Force (or Excessive Force, Continued)
In Tennessee v. Garner, the U.S. Supreme Court held that deadly force may not be used against a fleeing felony suspect unless two conditions are met. First, deadly force must be necessary to prevent the escape of the suspect. Second, the officer must have probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.
People with disabilities; improper training
Unfortunately, police efforts to assist emotionally disturbed people frequently result in the shooting or death of the individuals the police are dispatched to help. For example, in Hainze v. Richards and Wood v. City of Lakeland, police ended up shooting people who were suicidal. Police negligence, including negligent shootings, may create liability not only against individual officers, but also against their government employer for failure to properly train them.
False arrests, strip searches, and malicious prosecution
An arrest made without proper legal authority is a false arrest. Though a search at booking may extend to a strip search under certain circumstances, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Shain v. Ellison held that the county's policy of requiring strip searches of all detainees regardless of the nature of the crimes for which they were detained violated the Fourth Amendment. Finally, the institution of a criminal (or civil) proceeding for an improper purpose and without probable cause is called malicious prosecution, and generally requires that the wrongful prosecution ended in the defendant's favor.
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