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by Peter Moskos

November 24, 2010

Five NYPD Officers Cleared in Shootings of Bystanders

Ray Rivera in the Times:
Five New York City police officers who wounded two bystanders in a shootout with a suspect in Harlem in 2005 cannot be held negligent, the state’s highest court ruled on Tuesday, ending a five-year legal battle before it went to trial.

In a 4-to-3 decision, the State Court of Appeals found that the five officers were within department guidelines when they returned fire on a robbery suspect who had opened fire on several officers. The suspect was killed, but police bullets also struck a 78-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman who was playing with her 18-month-old daughter.
I'm not certain where I stand on the legal issues, but I do want to point out the vote was only 4 to 3. And I hate to think of a world where police are legally prohibited from shooting back!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmm... 3 out of 7 for the Plaintiff. Does that mean approximately 3 out of 7 times you will win in Civil case? (A much better odd than the lottery) Or you will get about 42% of the money that you asking for, say you wanted a million but due to the 3/7 voting so you are getting 420,000.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

Should have gone to a jury. This sort of thing is not supposed to be a "judge issue."

Policemen rule the courts.

I don't think the policemen should go to jail, but the police department should pay to compensate bystanders. then the policeman can decide whether he wants: (i) to drop the suspect; or (ii) a raise. I imagine most will opt to drop the suspect and donate next year's raise to those bystanders they accidentally hit. BUT, the policemen should not be able to hit bystanders AND not compensate them for the risk that the policemen shifted from themselves to the bystanders.

I think the policeman who was killed in Weld Co. yesterday may have been shot by a fellow policeman who failed to clear backdrop. Regcits aren't the only ones who die from this negligence.

CPM said...

Peter, I agree with your last comment.

CPM said...

I just read the article and I think the statment by "Susan Paulson" says it all....

Johnny Law said...

"I don't think the policemen should go to jail, but the police department should pay to compensate bystanders. then the policeman can decide whether he wants: (i) to drop the suspect; or (ii) a raise."

I....do you...what? That is ridiculous. The only person liable in this type of case is the bad guy. I doubt the police would have shot at him without some action on his part.

Jeff said...

How many bystanders have to be shot before the cops are held accountable? Is there a number?

So 2 bystanders is ok.

Is 5 bystanders not ok? 10?

There was one recently where the cops came upon a fight, one of the fighters drew a gun. The cops shot the guy with the gun, they killed the other guy who was in the fight, they shot several bystanders and they also shot another cop. That was ok.

Its also ok if one of the bystanders dies. There was a story a while back of a cop killing a pizza delivery guy who was came upon a shootout and thats fine. At least nobody important was hurt.

Or is it any number of bystanders can be killed, as long as the cops feel endangered and end up safe?

I don't know what the answer should be, obviously cops need to protect themselves. But I have an issue with the idea of acceptable collateral damage in police work.

Maybe this falls into the same category as high speed pursuits, if someone pulls a gun let the guy go for now.

IrishPirate said...

It seems to me there are separate questions here. There is criminal liability and civil liability. I have no problem with a police department compensating someone who was "wrongly" shot as a bystander by the police. I do have an issue with the police potentially being held criminally liable where they made a near instantaneous decision to shoot.

You give cops guns, training and authority and sometimes they are going to shoot the wrong people. There is no such thing as perfection in this life.

If Navy Seals can screw up and shoot/kill innocents on occasion we have to expect cops will do it too.

It seems to me this case is more a question of the plaintiff's lawyers saying the cops were in the wrong and trying to get more moola than anything else.

Oh well Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

Anonymous said...

I think police agencies should require that officers sustain at least one minor gunshot wound before returning fire; this is the least they can do to demonstrate that the need for them to open fire was genuine and the attendant hazards worth it. I also feel that police officers who shoot innocent people should be tried for shooting them like anyone else. When two gang members shoot it out and hit an innocent person, they are both liable. Why are the police any different? Double standards erode justice.

Anonymous said...

" the policemen should not be able to hit bystanders AND not compensate them for the risk that the policemen shifted from themselves to the bystanders."

Cleanville, you must mean that the citizens should sue the criminal, right, because wasn't it the criminal who shifted risk from himself to innocent people though his actions? The criminal is the sole actuator here.

MisguidedPotential said...

Anonymous said...
"I think police agencies should require that officers sustain at least one minor gunshot wound before returning fire; this is the least they can do to demonstrate that the need for them to open fire was genuine and the attendant hazards worth it."

Are you trolling or are you really just this dumb?

Anyway, I think both compensation and mandatory training are in order---any other profession you are liable in some way for screwing up, cops are no exception.

PCM said...

"Trolling or dumb"... I was wondering the same thing.