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18 Police Stud.: Int'l Rev. Police Dev. 19 (1995)
Law Enforcement Civil Liability under Federal Law and Attitudes on Civil Liability: A Survey of University, Municipal and State Police Officers

handle is hein.journals/polic18 and id is 213 raw text is: POLICE STUDIES, VOL. 18, Nos. 3 & 4 1995 19

Law Enforcement Civil Liability under Federal Law
and Attitudes on Civil Liability: A Survey of
University, Municipal and State Police Officers*
Arthur H. Garrison*
Delaware Criminal Justice Council
The advent of civil suits against police officers during the past two decades
has caused concern that the possible threat of civil liability is negatively impacting
police work. Fifty police officers from a state police agency, a municipal police
department and a university police department were surveyed to discover if the threat
of civil liability played a role in the daily performance of their duties as well as to
ascertain what these officers thought of civil liability. Additionally the study seeks to
determine if there is a difference in attitude between local, municipal and state law
enforcement agencies. The results were (1) police officers as a whole do not think
about being sued on a daily basis; (2) police officers view the threat of civil liability
as a deterrent to police misconduct; (3) state police officers are the least supportive
of citizens being able to sue police officers; (4) municipal police officers are the most
supportive of such suits and (5) police officers are almost evenly divided on the issue
of whether civil liability as an impediment to effective law enforcement. The article
includes a review case law on federal civil liability law.
There is a need to ascertain the views of line police officers to determine if
the threat of 1983 actions effects day to day law enforcement activities and if it does
is there a deterrent effect on police misconduct due to the known threat of civil
liability. From 1978 through 1990 191,359 police liability cases were decided by the
United States District Courts (Kappeler, Kappeler and del Carmen, 1993). The use
of section 1983 has become one of main avenues for the private citizen to redress
police abuse and misconduct.
The literature is devoid of comparisons between different law enforcement
agencies. Currently there have been no studies of the attitudes of college and
*This article is a revisian of a paper presented at Annual Meeing of the Society of Police and Criminal
Psychology in Honolulu, Hawaii October 23-27, 1995.

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