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Enforcement Workshop - The Expert Witness in Suits Against Police, Part 1

NCJ Number
Criminal Law Bulletin Volume: 21 Issue: 3 Dated: (May-June 1985) Pages: 244-253
J J Fyfe
Date Published
10 pages
The author presents observations stemming from his participation as an expert witness in suits arising from allegations of unnecessary or excessive use of force by police.
In such cases, the plaintiff is disadvantaged by a lack of jury knowledge or jury oversimplistic concepts of the nature of police work and by jury conceptions of police as the 'good guys' and the plaintiff as the 'bad guy.' Moreover, plaintiffs in such cases are usually young, lower class males, frequently from minority groups, who are likely to appear less credible than police officers testifying against them. Questions of police blameworthiness in such cases often are further complicated because they often involve well meaning and courageous officers whose inadequate preparation converted a relatively minor incident into disaster. Another burden on plaintiffs is that jurors are taxpayers who ultimately pay judgements against police. In addition, police officers and their attorneys sometimes suffer from an ill-founded sense of invulnerability against liability. Finally, as many wrongful-use-of-force cases involve vehicle stops in which the officer has not fully observed well articulated police principles and policies concerning such stops, police defense teams often find themselves on the losing end of verdicts. A total of 23 footnotes are provided.