Can a Police Officer Sue a Person?

As the saying goes, anyone can sue anyone for any reason. Police officers are not excluded from that statement. Civil courts exist to remedy wrongful acts, regardless of whether the act was done intentionally or unintentionally. A civil tort, or wrongdoing, is any type of act that results in some type of quantifiable harm to another person. Common types of civil torts include assaults, wrongful death, trespass, slander, defamation of character, libel and negligence (such as accidents). For the past two decades, police officers have routinely and aggressively utilized the civil court system (as well as the criminal courts) to rectify civil torts committed against them by the public.

It is true that the occupation of police officer carries with it inherent risks. Because the job does come with risks, it would appear that being harmed is just part of the job. However, that is not the case. Police officers are still citizens and are afforded the same civil protections as any other citizen. A police officer does not have to expect to be injured, slandered or subject to any other civil wrongdoing while carrying out his or her job. Becoming a police officer does not mean that an officer waives his or her rights to seek civil restitution and damages in the event that the officer is civilly wronged.

Police officers train with an emphasis on being safe to prevent harm to both themselves and to others. Contrary to popular belief, police train to only use physical force as a last resort. Whether the use of force is initiated by a police officer or is initiated by the person an officer is dealing with, the officer should not expect to be assaulted or injured during the confrontation. If during a violent encounter, an officer is injured or wronged, the person arrested may not only face criminal charges for assaulting a police officer, but the officer may also elect to sue the person in civil court to recover damages sustained as a result of the injury.

Another common type of lawsuit brought by police officers are ones for negligence. Typical negligence cases include, but are not limited to, traffic accidents. If a police officer were on routine patrol and a motorist caused a traffic accident with a police car that resulted in injury to the officer, the officer is within his or her rights to civilly sue the motorist, just like any other citizen could do in a similar situation. In this case, since the officer does not own the patrol car, any damages related to the repair of the car would not be the officer’s to sue for but the officer could absolutely sue for the injuries that were caused to him or her as a result of the accident.

Although a police officer injured, harmed or wronged civilly while performing their jobs are compensated in pay, medical expenses and given ample time off to recover by their departments, the compensation they receive will not be aligned with any long-term or permanent injury recompense. Officers can use the civil court to recover damages not afforded to them by their departments and can receive both actual and punitive damages from a defendant to be made whole again.

It is often mentioned that most of the people that a police officer would sue, don’t have the money to pay the officer so it is a waste of time for the police to sue. That may be true, but officers often seek to obtain a judgement against the person that wronged them. Even if the person cannot or will not pay the officer, a judgement allows the officer the ability to collect on the court judgement almost indefinitely through the use of such things like wage garnishments until the judgement is satisfied. -Just like any other citizen can that is a victim of a civil tort.

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