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Police Misconduct – Deliberate Indifference and Failure to Intervene

Deliberate Indifference to a Serious Medical Condition or a Substantial Risk of Harm

The Constitution prohibits jail and prison personnel from acting with deliberate indifference to a serious risk of harm to persons in custody. Therefore, a jail deputy or nurse who would understand that an inmate has a serious medical need or faces a substantial risk of harm must take reasonable measures to address the medical need or risk. This includes a specific, heightened risk that one inmate will assault another inmate.

To prove deliberate indifference in a civil case, the victim generally must prove that the victim faced a substantial risk of serious harm, that the officer had knowledge of the risk of injury, and that the officer failed to take reasonable measures to decrease it. The standard is an objective standard requiring that a reasonable officer knew or would have known of the risk of injury, if the victim is a “pretrial detainee,” meaning that they are in jail awaiting trial or have not yet been convicted. Haddad & Sherwin LLP handle catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases for pretrial detainee victims who were in jail and were subjected to deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs.

Failure to Intervene

An officer who is aware that a fellow officer is violating, or about to violate, a victim’s Constitutional rights and fails to take action to protect the victim may be sued or prosecuted for failure to intervene to stop the Constitutional violation.

To prosecute such an officer, the government must show that the defendant officer was aware of the Constitutional violation, had an opportunity to intervene, and chose not to do so.  Similar proof can support a civil rights claim against the officer who fails to intervene.

This charge is often appropriate for supervisory officers who observe uses of excessive force without stopping them or who actively encourage the use of excessive force but do not directly participate in them.

Haddad & Sherwin LLP has a long, successful track record winning wrongful death and other serious civil rights claims for police and jail officer misconduct, throughout Northern and Central California.  Call or email us for a free consultation.