At the onset of the 20th century, police work can best be described as very authoritative and policemen or law enforcers were themselves considered the law. Criminality was low principally because of the relatively stable economy and the population density in cities and urban centers were a hundred time, or even more, than today. As symbol of authority, the police was then looked up to by the citizenry with great respect and even with admiration. Through the years, the public image of the policeman is suspect.
In truth city police departments today already employ spokesmen or public relations officers to ensure the respectability of the service is protected and preserved. The changes in the concept of police work tremendously changed over the last century, or to be more specific the 25 years. The situation was brought about by the growing public conscious on human rights which is guaranteed no less by the United Nations. While before police training was focused on proper handling of firearms and marksmanships, traffic rules and regulations, today’s police officer should be conscious of every person’s human rights.
Otherwise he or she may end up in court being sued for civil liability or damages. Changing Concept on the Police Over the years the police service has underwent some sort of an evolution. From a strong image of authority, the police has to some extent been compelled to accept the fact that their functions or source of power emanates from the taxpayers who wanted them to be their protectors instead of oppressors. The situation is quite complex. While they have the mandate to enforce or implement the laws, the police are being restricted by a string of guidelines better known in their lingo as the rules of engagement.
They have to comply with the rules in the performance of their duties because failure to do so could mean suspension or worse dismissal from the service. Unlike before when for instance, a traffic police officer can simply issue a citation ticket to a motorist who violated a traffic law today’s system places the supposed violator on a position of strength. He or she can write on the citation ticket the words “under protest” to signify the intention to question the actuation of the traffic officer for flagging him or her for a supposed violation.
The situation for policemen whose duties are to run after criminal elements or members of the underworld is even more difficult. Unlike before when they would simply pick up a suspected person and have him or her placed under interrogation or “tactical questioning,” today’s detective or police intelligence officer need to first gather substantial proofs or incontrovertible eyewitness accounts in order to be able to apply for a warrant of arrest from the court. Down for a supposed violation Because of the complex nature in today’s justice system, police work now requires them to be conscious of the civil or human rights of every citizen.
Additionally, they also need to be more aware of the rules of court or run the risk of being rebuffed or they cases they brought up for prosecution or litigation may end up dismissed for either insufficiency of evidence or non-compliance to the rules in effecting or carrying out arrests and raids. The preponderance of diligence in the performances of police duties and responsibilities in the enforcement of the laws is so emphasized that police officers are restricted from conducting investigations or questioning without the presence of the suspect’s preferred or lawyer of his or her choice.
Civil Liability of Abusive Members of the Police Department Today’s police officers are made by law liable for their actuations as a result of an alarming pattern of abuse they commit in the process of dispensing their duties. Perhaps because of media attention or coverage on police work, abuses have eventually been documented or difficult to deny as far as the police officer is concern. Every now and then, the public would see on television brutal police handling of suspected offenders. The abuses have become so frequent that the time has now come where victims of police abuse have to get back at them by suing for civil liability or damages.
Perhaps, as society experiences new trends in law enforcement more laws to ensure that the power or authority vested in police officers are only used for the public good and not make the police as a threat to society itself. By making them civilly liable for high handedness in the performance of the laws, police officers will be kept on their toes. Guide to Civil Liability In view of the above positions, it is notable to discuss a book manual for police officers’ to consider in the performances of their duties and in relation to their civil liability and the law.
In a book entitled “The Police Officer’s Guide to Civil Liability,” Franklin (1993) emphasized the need for law enforcers, police officers in particular, to adhere to a standard guide to enable them to abide by their principles and at the same time uphold the concept of civil liability. Franklin noted that due to the increased number of court cases hurled against police officers, there is also a mounting need to teach these law enforcers on the dynamics of civil law. This is because such training or learning should be innate among police officers and within their profession and in order for them to survive the field (Franklin, 1993).
While the required knowledge on civil liability totally varies from their abilities and expertise which are essential to be alive in a fatal shooting incident, having proficiency about civil law may avert a devastating possibility or outcome which will ultimate affect the career of the police officer and which is definitely dreadful as any form of shoot-out or gun battle. Additionally, the monetary and emotional implications of a civil case are often than not surpass the physical suffering which is likened to a gun shot wound (Franklin, 1993).
The book noted that as professionals, police officers are, in one way or the other, are engaged in a civil case. Franklin noted the stress it had inflicted on law enforcers and their respective police departments in general. However, police officers are still limited with civil law or civil liability trainings which may assist them in their court battles. It is unfortunate to note that a large amount of money which will be used in the court proceedings as well as many lives of police officers could be saved if only there is a provision of civil liability education or training.
This is because such kind of knowledge created a better and well-prepared police officer who can react to any kind of police situation or effectively carry out his duties to people and the society. Through this training, there will also be a reduction in the possibilities of a defeat in the civil case, and most importantly, this is the fundamental determining factor for the efficiency and value of police officer and his civil liability training (Franklin, 1993). Conclusion
An increased awareness on the need for police officers to learn and adhere to civil liability in reference to specific laws of the country is a positive effort to undertake. This is because such consciousness will allow police officers to carry out their obligations, in a legal or appropriate manner, without the hindrance of possible civil lawsuit. While there are members of the police force who are undeniably amiss in their profession, it is worthy to consider that this is not the general view of the police department.
Additionally, any misconception about the police profession may be corrected in such a way that the police officers are portrayed as important members of the society who are bound to protect people, property and the society as a whole. Hence, it is just but fair to provide police officers trainings and related means which will enable them to appropriately respond to the security or safety requirements of the people. Ultimately, the concept and the need to uphold civil liability will serve as a reminder for police officers that their authority entails responsibility.