What, if any, civil liability issues would the agency have possibly encountered if the victim had died because the supervisor followed the policy of not pursuing without knowledge of a specific crime? Assume there was no helicopter available and the Lieutenant had terminated the pursuit with no follow-up. Consider case law related to administrative and supervisory liability, including failure to protect and failure to train.
Be specific in your answers to the question. Make sure you cite case law. Consider the possibilities there may or may not be any civil liability. Either way, there must be a through explanation of your legal reasoning. Submit to the Unit 5 Case Study Assignment Drop Box
Case Study–Administrative/Supervisory Liability and Failure to Train?
An officer was working late watch (2230-0630 hours) in a county police department in a county surrounding a large metropolitan area. The department had 500 officers. The officer while at a restaurant at 3:00 AM on a hot and humid July night observed some suspicious activity behind a business across the street. Due to the distance it was difficult to see exactly was happening but he noted a car and several people moving around. The business was a retail business so it was closed. Due to the time day, the location, the vehicle, and the movement of the people behind the building and in the vehicle he felt it was suspicious and needed checking out. He went to his police vehicle and drove toward the people. The people saw the officer heading their way so they jumped in the car and drove away at a high rate of speed. The officer began pursuing with emergency equipment on. He contacted dispatch to inform he was in pursuit. The pursuit proceeded for several minutes on secondary roads that eventually led to an interstate highway. The pursuit headed north toward another state (the county is on the border between two states). The officer provided the information regarding the circumstances of the pursuit in accordance with policy but he was unable to articulate a specific reason (violation of law) for the pursuit. He believed they had been involved in a burglary of the business, but the pursuit began before he could verify that. Other officers responded to the building and indicated there was no burglary or no evidence of any crime. Under the policy the officer had to articulate some specific offense as the reason for the pursuit. No offense meant no pursuit. When the officer indicated the inevitability of going into another state, with no offense articulated, the supervisor ordered the officer to terminate the pursuit. The agency had a helicopter unit that responded and obtained a visual on the pursued vehicle. The Lieutenant ordered the helicopter to remain in visual contact across the state border and contact police agencies in the other state. All this happened in accordance with department policy and interstate agreement on interagency cooperation related to pursuits and arrests. Several miles into the other state, with police from that state responding, the helicopter crew observed the pursued vehicle come to a stop in the emergency lane of the Interstate. There was steam coming from under the hood. The car had broken down. They reported three people exited the vehicle and ran into a corn field. The officers from the other state arrived at the scene as do the original pursuing officers who were given permission to proceed to the termination point. A K-9 unit responded also and arrived on the scene. The K-9 officer enticed his dog to begin a track, but the dog stayed at the car. After several attempts to begin the track the dog began paying a great deal of attention to the trunk of the car. At that moment the officers heard a person screaming from the trunk. Upon opening the trunk the officers found a man, alive and already close to heat exhaustion. He was the victim of a robbery kidnapping. The K-9 unit then went after the suspects in the field where they quickly located and apprehended the three suspects, two women and a man. The K-9 bit the man while trying to escape.
Here is what happened behind the building where the pursuit began. The victim had met the two women at a bar and they enticed him into giving them a ride to their apartment. He thought it is his lucky night except there was a man there. The women asked the victim to take them to a party. Again he thinks the night is not lost and there is still hope, except the man goes with them. Still with two women and two men he still has hope of good things to happen. The women enticed him to the rear of the building where they all exited the car. This is where the officer saw the car and people and this was where the robbery took place. When the officer approached, they panicked and threw the victim into the trunk of the car (a very small trunk) and tried to outrun the police. The officer did not see the robbery or the victim being placed in the trunk of the car.
If the agency did not have a helicopter unit and one were not available from another agency (there were no other helicopter units in the region) and strictly followed the pursuit policy requiring the officer to articulate a specific crime that justified a pursuit, the suspects most likely would have escaped. If the car broke down as it did, the victim might not have survived the July heat in the trunk. The agency required all officers to go to a 4-hour in-service training session at the driving range twice a year. The training involved actual pursuit driving on the driving range, review of the pursuit policy, and legal update on pursuits. The agency provided supervisors with training on how to supervise a pursuit. The agency also had a pursuit review committee where all pursuits were reviewed to determine if they were within policy and what additional training might be required.
This is a real case. I was the detective sergeant that led the subsequent investigation of the suspects leading to prosecution and conviction for robbery, kidnapping, and a variety of lesser charges. I listened to the entire pursuit and was on the scene shortly after discovery of the victim and arrest of the suspects. The FBI tried to take the completed case away to charge the defendants under what was then the new federal carjacking law. This almost happened but they discovered that one defendant was a juvenile (a few days short of 18 years old). The federal judicial system did not deal with juveniles well, so they passed on the case. The juvenile was prosecuted and sentenced as an adult in state court. The adults were convicted and sentenced as well.
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