Criminal Justice Update
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Criminal Justice Update

Steps can help limit civil liability

Because of the inherent danger and quick decisions law enforcement officers face every day, civil liability is a real concern for officers and their agencies.

Nearly every arrest, detention, use of force, pursuit, and collision an officer is involved in creates the potential for litigation. Add to that the fact that cell phones routinely capture interactions between law enforcement and the public, and it’s easy to see the reason for concern.
While no public servant can prevent someone from filing a lawsuit, officers and their agencies can take several proactive steps to limit potential liability. Attorney John Green, deputy director of regional training for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA), offers these suggestions:
  • Review policies and procedures to ensure they reflect proper constitutional standards.
  • Know, follow, and train according to your agency’s policies and procedures.
  • Conduct training according to accepted standards.
  • Prepare detailed reports that accurately reflect incidents.
  • Be prepared to intervene during high-risk activities such as uses of force or vehicle pursuits.
  • Maintain your professionalism at all times, and assume everything you say and do is being recorded.
  • Take responsibility for your training, and ensure it is up to date. Visit for details on free online and regional trainings.
  • Read law enforcement publications to stay abreast of trends and recent court decisions. The Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Bulletin at is one good resource.
Lawsuits can have a demoralizing effect on agencies and their officers. Working together to minimize exposure to liability is beneficial to both.
For more information: OPOTA’s Mobile Academy offers regional trainings on ways to limit civil liability. Courses are listed at