U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Police Officers and Civil Liability: "The Ties That Bind"?

NCJ Number
Policing Volume: 24 Issue: 2 Dated: 2001 Pages: 240-262
Tom Hughes
Date Published
23 pages
This study examined how police officers perceived the impact of civil liability on their actions in the field, as well as how officers viewed administrative measures used by departments to reduce liability.
The Cincinnati Police Division, a large urban police department, was the site of the data collection. The survey data were obtained from a multi-year observational study of the police. The study's focus was the implementation and evaluation of the department's community policing efforts. Both community policing officers and beat officers were observed through a ride-along process. Trained observers collected and coded data regarding officer interactions and behavior while on patrol. The final element of the study was the administration of a six-page survey of previously observed officers. Of the 163 officers observed in the study, 147 (29 community officers and 118 beat officers) completed the questionnaire. Only 18.5 percent of the respondents had been involved in civil litigation that related to their job; however, over two-thirds knew personally of an officer who had been sued for a job-related matter. Males and females had the same reported experience with civil litigation. Consistent with prior research, most respondents believed civil suits were in many ways inevitable, even when officers acted properly. Prior research findings that indicate civil liability is not considered in the field by police officers were also supported in the current research. Overall, respondents held negative attitudes regarding the use and effectiveness of civil sanctions against police. Officers did not perceive that the threat of civil liability impacted their daily actions. Regardless of personal demographic characteristics, the majority of officers did not believe the threat of civil liability to be a significant method of controlling police actions. 11 tables, 22 notes, and 42 references


No download available