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    The Need for IA/OPS Audits

    Legal and Liability Risk Management Institute Public Agency Training Council Generally law enforcement agencies have operated their IA/OPS system with little oversight. That's coming to an end. More communities, particularly those in large urban areas, are instituting some form of external review. In some communities it's a form of civilian review. Since 1997, numerous police agencies have come under the scrutiny ...
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    The Law of Citizen Contacts and Stop and Frisk

    On a daily basis police officers have contacts with citizens that are consensual and thus do not implicate the Fourth Amendment. These contacts do not require the police to have any level of suspicion to justify the contact. Since police do not justify the stop based on some level of suspicion, the police have no authority to force a non-willing citizen ...
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    Startled Look and Hiding Your Purse are Insufficient to Establish Reasonable Suspicion

    In S.V.J. v. State of Florida, 2005 Fla. App. LEXIS 1037 (Florida App. Ct. 2nd Dist. 2005), the Court of Appeals for Florida considered a school search case where the only facts articulated in support of the search was a startled look coupled with the appearance of trying to hide a purse. S.V.J. attended an alternative school for disruptive students. On ...
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    Shooting At Non-Threatening Fleeing Vehicle May Violate 4th Amendment

    In Flores v. City of Palacios and Officer Kalina, 381 F.3d 391 (5th Cir. 2004), the United States Court of Appeal for the 5th Circuit considered a case where an officer shot at a vehicle that refused to stop upon his command. Officer Kalina was on patrol when he shined his spotlight toward a vehicle that was parked on the wrong ...
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    Preparing a Defense in Law Enforcement Litigation: A Formula for Law Enforcement

    Any significant law enforcement event has the potential to develop in a claim made against the agency and the officers involved. The likelihood of a lawsuit is enhanced when individuals involved in the event are injured or claim a violation of their rights at the outset. Depending upon the nature of the event and the public interest involved, the media may ...
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    Handcuffing as Excessive Force

    Handcuffing as Excessive Force
    An area of liability that is sometimes given very little attention is handcuffing. Clearly, handcuffing is a frequently recurring law enforcement task, but is it a high-risk critical task? There can be little question that handcuffing is a high-frequency/high risk critical task. Consider two cases reported in the media. The first involved a Florida neuro-surgeon, Angelo Gousse. Dr. Gousse was visiting ...
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    Positional Asphyxia

    Another aspect of pepper-spray that leads to litigation is deaths resulting from positional asphyxia. Positional asphyxia involves the improper placement of individuals who have violently resisted causing physical exertion and sometimes exacerbated by the effects of pepper-spray which inhibits breathing. Many of these cases also involve the presence of narcotics that increases a suspect’s heart rate as well as other physiological ...
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    Procedural Time Limits In Administrative Investigations - Absolutes

    When you are involved with public employee disciplinary matters and have procedural time limits imposed on your case, failing to meet those time limits will normally result in losing the ability to discipline the employee regardless what the misconduct may be. In essence these limits are essentially a statute of limitations, in other words, bring your discipline within the allotted time ...
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    Property Policies and the Release of FirearmsManaging Risks

    The best way for law enforcement agencies to avoid a lawsuit is to take steps to prevent liability. Not every injury is foreseeable, however as new experiences are observed with resulting lawsuits, steps should be taken to address the potential rather than waiting for the first time it happens to your agency. A survey of agencies has revealed that not many ...
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    Stop and Frisk—What do you do, what can you do?

    The Law of Citizen Contacts and Stop and Frisk On a daily basis police officers have contacts with citizens that are consensual and thus do not implicate the Fourth Amendment. These contacts do not require the police to have any level of suspicion to justify the contact. Since police do not justify the stop based on some level of suspicion, the ...
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    Strip Search at Juvenile Residential Facility Reasonable

    A recent case from the United States Court of Appeal for the 6th Circuit provides an example of how a court will review a strip search by police in a juvenile residential facility. In Reynolds v. City of Anchorage, 379 F.3d 358 (6th Cir. 2004), the court considered a case involving a strip-search. The facts surrounding the search began when staff ...
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    Totally Disabled Parent Seeks Victim Status: Court: Pluto is less remote to us than the Plaintiffs argument

    Stephen Prescott believes that parents may think twice about attending their children’s school events if the law prevents them from successfully suing the school corporation after being injured on school property. The Connecticut Supreme Court recently heard and rejected Prescott’s argument, finding that schools owed students’ parents no special duty of care. Prescott was injured after his son’s Thanksgiving 1998 football ...
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    Training Issues With Respect to Warrant Execution

    Officers must be trained for the recurring tasks which the particular officers may face. The training a particular officer must receive will be determined by the officer’s assignment. For example, a rookie officer that is not allowed to draft search warrants would not need to be trained in the drafting of search warrants, whereas a detective that will be regularly drafting ...
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    Proving Constructive Possession of Illegal Drugs

    Officers from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department executed a search warrant at the home of Dale Ann Harris, where she lived with her children. When the police made entry, they found Harris and two other women inside the apartment; all were handcuffed and detained. Officers searched the kitchen and found jars, vials, tin foil, and spoons which contained suspicious liquid ...
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    Unreasonable Frisk May Lead to Liability

    In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the United States Supreme Court authorized police officers to stop and detain individuals where the officer had reasonable suspicion (some facts and circumstance but less than probable cause) to believe that the person to be stopped was involved in criminal activity. Officers were authorized to use force, short of deadly force to accomplish ...
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    Hidden Compartment in Motor Vehicle Can Provide Probable Cause for Search

    United States v. Concepcion-Ledesma, 447 F.3d 1307 (10th Cir. 2006) Just the Facts… On May 16, 2006 the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in the above case, held that the presence of a hidden compartment in vehicle, taken with the totality of the circumstances, provides probable cause for a warrantless search. In this case, a Kansas State Trooper observed a group ...
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    Vehicle Checkpoints

    Over the past decade the United States Supreme Court has decided three cases dealing with law enforcement checkpoints involving car stops by police officers without individualized suspicion to believe that the operator of the vehicle had done anything wrong. In Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), the Court approved of Sobriety Checkpoints where the police were acting pursuant to set ...
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    A Lack of In-Service Training May Lead to Liability

    In Lewis v. City of Chicago, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7482 (Ill. N. District 2005), a federal trial court set forth the importance of in-service training with respect to restraint and control tactics. Christopher Hicks died during the course of his arrest on May 26, 2004. His death was ruled a homicide and the cause of death was listed as asphyxiation ...
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    United States Court of Appeal for 6th Circuit Upholds Discrimination Award in Transsexual Promotion Case

    Philip, now Philiecia, Barnes a member of the Cincinnati Police Department filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, sex discrimination after he failed to pass the probationary period following his promotion to sergeant. In 1999, Phillip Barnes was living as a pre-operative male to female transsexual. When Barnes worked as a police officer during the day, he lived as a male, ...
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    U.S. Supreme Court Violation of Knock and Announce Rule Does Not Require Exclusion of Evidence

    In Hudson v. Michigan, the United States Supreme Court considered how a violation of the knock and announce rule should impact the admissibility of evidence in a criminal prosecution. The facts in Hudson involve the execution of a search warrant by the Detroit Police Department. The police obtained a warrant to search Booker Hudson’s residence for drugs and weapons. Upon ...
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