What You Need to Tell Police Officer Clients: The Top 10 Keys to Avoiding Liability

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August 06, 2013

Practical Tips That Can Mean the Difference Between Winning and Losing at Trial

1. Training/Force Continuum

  • Carefully follow your training and the force continuum (or whatever use of force model your department uses).

2. Assessment & Deliberation

  • Appropriate assessment and deliberation before taking action.

3. Candid Camera

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  • Behave as if everything you do is:
  • Being filmed on video or a cell phone camera; and
  • Being memorialized on a tape recorder.

4. Document, Document, Document

  • Document thoroughly and carefully – in probable cause
  • affidavits; police reports; “specials”, etc.

5. Do You Job – And then STOP !

  • Avoid the extra unexplainable act.

6. Make A Memory

  • Incorporate something positive and memorable that bystanders will be able to remember.

7. No “Lazy Dismissals”

  • Demand that the Prosecutor red-flag the case and take case disposition seriously.

8. Consistency – Paper v. Actual

  • Ensure that departmental written procedures are “in sync” with customary street conduct.

9. Tell All The Story

  • Encourage the city attorneys to be over-inclusive with their witness and exhibit lists.

10. Always On Stage

  • Recognize the importance of your courtroom presence and trial demeanor.


  • John F. Kautzman, Ruckelshaus Kautzman Blackwell Bemis & Hasbrook
  • Richard A. Waples, Waples & Hanger







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