During a meeting of the Michigan Municipal League’s (MML) Executive Committee of the Law Enforcement Action Forum (LEAF) one of the members asked “From a historical prospective, topically, what are the areas where officers most often make mistakes which result in injury, complaints or civil litigation?” What followed was a discussion of the specific things officers must know and do while performing their job tasks.
Tom Wolff, Claim Manager, MML Risk Management Services and Audrey Forbush, LEAF Legal Advisor from Plunkett Cooney PC, listed operation of motor vehicles, use of force, custody, entry and search and seizure as activities that have been the frequent source of litigation against members of the MML Liability and Property Pool. The list was not all inclusive but represented the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations often alleged by plaintiff’s bar in litigation that is filed in response to an officer’s action. Both Forbush and Wolff agreed that the issues often involve whether the officers’ actions were reasonable based on the information they had at the time they took action and if that action was within the boundaries of either the law or limitations set by the courts.
Wolff went on to say that the most serious claims of injury from the MML Workers’ Compensation Fund revolved around motor vehicle crashes, human violence and officers being injured because of a slip, trip, fall or striking against an object because they lacked environmental or situational awareness.
After the discussion, a list of questions was made of what command needed to know so they could test to “know what their officers know”. It is the predominant theory that the test can be used to audit the officers’ knowledge and will help identify any need for training, supervision or modification of policy. The purpose of the audit is to ensure the department’s performance complies with the law and the municipal entity’s and public’s expectations.