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Officers May Rely on Information Provided By School Officials

Jack Ryan

Many times police officers assigned to schools or police officers that are called to schools must make decisions regarding arrest based upon information provided by school officials. A recent case decided by a federal court in New York reiterated that police officers may rely upon the information provided by school officials in establishing probable cause to arrest.

Foy v. City of New York and the NYPD, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18274 (S. Dist. NY 2004) involved a typical school incident. Foy, a fifth grader became involved in an altercation with a sixth grade girl. Foy had taken the cap to the girl’s pen and refused to give it back. According to Foy, the girl hit Foy, prompting him to punch her in the face causing swelling to the eye. Foy asserted that he had been punched in the face four times but had received no injuries. Two teachers and a lunch aide observed what happened and intervened. The female student was taken to the nurse’s office and the police were called. Foy was handcuffed and taken to the police station where his mother picked him up. Foy alleged that officers yelled at him throughout this contact and never asked for his side of the story concerning his self-defense claim.

Foy filed suit alleging a violation of the Fourth Amendment in that his arrest was not based on probable cause and also constituted a false arrest. The court noted that “the existence of probable cause to arrest constitutes a justification and is a complete defense to an action for false arrest.” The court noted that Foy was not arrested until after officers spoke with school officials. The court asserted: “It is well-established that a law enforcement official has probable cause to arrest if he received information from some person, normally the putative victim or eyewitness, who it seems reasonable to believe is telling the truth.” Here, the police received their information from school officials before making the arrest. Citing other cases where courts have held that officers may rely upon information from school officials the court held: “Thus, the police were entitled to rely on the statements of the school personnel to determine that there was probable cause for Foy’s arrest.

The court granted the officers’ request for summary judgment, thus dismissing all of Foy’s claims.

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