Lawsuits are a given anytime a law enforcement officer is involved in a use of force. Lawyers line up to get the family financial gain after losing a loved one and fill their coffers at the same time. One reason these lawsuits are so prevalent has nothing to do with the guilt of the officers or the anti-police sentiment, although the latter does not help, it has to do with ease of settlement. Many departments, especially those with insurance, will offer out of court settlements regardless of the fact. These suits can cost departments hundreds of thousands of dollars. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez what to change that.
The Republican Governor claims that unjustified lawsuits cost the criminal justice system and local governments unnecessary losses of both time and money. Officers are taken off rotation while the cases move slowly through the system, courts are tied up, and settlements divert money that could be used for other purpose and may even lead to an increase in taxes. This has been magnified by recent juries awarding unexplained high settlements without any misconduct on behalf of law enforcement.
Her answer-a bill which would prohibit lawsuits unless the officers involved can be shown to have disobeyed orders or deviated from training. Newsweek quoted Gov. Martinez as stating “I don’t believe that police officers should be under this constant threat of lawsuits that will often cause them pause. If they are following their training, there should be something that protects them.”
No actual bill has been introduced as yet the exact language is not available. However, Martinez has stated any such bill would be designed to protect police officers and the taxpayer who foots the tab, from being sued by criminals who are injured during their apprehension. The lack of a specific bill has not stopped the Governor’s opposition from coming out against any additional immunity for police officers. The ACLU and relatives of those killed or injured by New Mexico police officers are strongly opposed to the bill and plan to protest it once the language is introduced.
The truth of the matter is officers already enjoy qualified immunity at the Federal level, meaning they are exempt from Federal lawsuits relating to their official duties. Before immunity is allowed, plaintiffs are required to show that the officer(s) deviated from the standard of training or that their conduct was such that any officer would know it to be wrong. The biggest benefit to police is that when the court conducts this review, it is required to do so from the perspective of a reasonable officer involved in the incident, not as a legal expert reviewing it after the fact.
If New Mexico, or any other state, were to enact such legislation it would not be breaking new ground. It would simply be leveling the playing field by making state law consistent with existing Federal law.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.