Police Legal Advising and Risk Management: Innovative Approaches to Police Liability Management

Carol A. Archbold, Marquette University

The nature of police work exposes police officers to liability risks everyday, resulting in greater chances of police officers becoming the subjects of civil litigation. Monetary payouts to citizens by police departments in litigation cases have increased since the late 1960s. For example, both Los Angeles and New York City paid out over $70 million in settlements for police misconduct from 1991 to 1996 (Human Rights Watch, 1998). Police managers have recognized this increase in payouts, and have begun to take proactive measures to reduce exposure to liability risks. Two of these proactive measures are police legal advisors and risk management. This study will examine the use of risk managers and legal advisors by police agencies to control police exposure to liability incidents. Both risk managers and police legal advisors are included in this study because both approaches share common goals and roles within police organizations. Additionally, both approaches use similar methods and techniques to accomplish those shared goals. More specifically, this study examines: (1) The prevalence of the use of risk management and legal advising in law enforcement agencies in the United States, (2) some of the characteristics and roles of the identified risk management and legal advising programs in police agencies, (3) some of the factors associated with the adoption of such programs, and (4) the perceived impact of utilizing police legal advising and/or risk management to handle police liability issues.

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Updated 05/20/2006