Skip to main content
Police Misconduct

Can you sue the police department?

By December 1, 2017April 2nd, 2024No Comments

If you’re involved with a lawsuit against a police officer, most likely it’s because the officer violated one of the following civil rights afforded to you by the Constitution:

  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Excessive Force
  • False arrest and/or illegal search and seizure

But not all actions are subject to a lawsuit, and police officers have what’s called qualified immunity, or a court precedent that’s designed to protect law enforcement officers from frivolous lawsuits, and not let the threat of a potential lawsuit get in the way of doing what can turn out to be a very dangerous job.

When can you sue the police?

If you have a claim against a police officer for excessive force, discrimination, harassment or another civil rights violation, you must be able to prove the following:

  • You have to prove a pattern of abusive, discriminatory or harassing behavior by the officer in question. Court precedents don’t allow lawsuits for one specific incident.
  • If you are claiming that you were wrongfully arrested, you have to prove that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated because of the unreasonable search or seizure. In other words, you have to prove that police did not have probable cause or enough evidence to arrest you. Police officers, on the other hand, only have to prove that they believed to the best of their ability at the time that there was sufficient evidence or probable cause for a judge to throw your case out.
  • If you are claiming excessive force, you’ll have to show there was significant injury — or death if you are a loved one suing on behalf of someone who died in police custody. Just how severe your injury was and whether it was serious enough for a lawsuit will have to be determined by a judge or jury.

Who do you sue when you file a lawsuit against the police?

When you file a lawsuit against law enforcement, you can name the following people and/or entities in the suit:

  • The individual officer or officers involved
  • The supervisor or police chief
  • The government agency that oversees the officer in question.

What types of damages can I seek when I sue the police?

If you are successful in your lawsuit against the police, you could be awarded the following types of damages:

  • Actual damages: The value of the medical bills, lost wages, and any other calculable expense you incurred.
  • Punitive damages: Extra money that’s meant to punish the police for their wrongdoing.
  • Civil Rights damages: This is money that’s specifically set aside for any violations of civil rights.

No matter the offense, suing the police or the police department is no easy task. That’s why you need the help of an experienced civil rights attorney on your side. Call Jacqui Ford’s office today.