Many comments have been made regarding the status of ASUPD’s FTO program–how it has been used as a tool to weed people out of the department, how different FTOs have different standards for each respective trainee–but none have discussed how poorly running an FTO program can have significant legal ramifications for ASUPD, as well as ASU.
The following excerpts were cited from J. Parkinson’s “The Cost of Inadequate Training“:
Title 42, U.S. Code, Section 1983 Claims states that all allegations of civil rights violations against the police are brought in Federal Court (Daane, D.M. and J.E. Hendricks, 1991).Section 1983 provides a remedy for the violation of an individual’s federally protected rights.
In order to file a Section 1983 claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant acted under the color of state law, their conduct deprived the plaintiff of their rights secured by the Constitution, the training the officer received (regarding the injury suffered by the plaintiff) was inadequate, the inadequate training led to the injury, and there was deliberate indifference on the part of the municipality. The Court ruled in Monell (1978) that a municipality could be sued if the plaintiff could prove the defendant violated their rights because the municipality failed to adequately train the defendant. The Court ruled that liability for failure to train has to follow the strict standard of deliberate indifference. The requirements to prove deliberate indifference include: plaintiff must prove the municipality knew the officer would have to deal with the situation, there was training available that would have made the outcome of the situation different, and the municipality chose to not provide the officer with such training (McNamara, 2006).
Supervisors are also able to be held liable for an officer’s actions under Section 1983. There are three elements, the court identified in Shaw v. Stroud (4th Cir. 1994), that must be present. They are:
(1) that a supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed ‘a pervasive and unreasonable risk’ of constitutional injury to citizens like the plaintiff; (2) that the supervisor’s response to that knowledge was so inadequate as to show ‘deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the alleged offensive practices,’ and (3) that there was an ‘affirmative causal link’ between the supervisor’s inaction and the particular injury suffered by the plaintiff.”
It is not good enough to say a police department is properly trained, there has to be clear documentation that includes when the training was held, which officers attended, who was the instructor, and what material was covered (Dahlinger, 2001). Documentation must be organized in a clear, concise manner so if an officer becomes a defendant in a failure to train lawsuit, or any other type, the training records can be submitted as evidence of training. Basically, if it is not documented, then it didn’t happen. McNamara (2006, p.3) stated: “Taking this proactive step will help reduce department liability by showing an ongoing commitment to proper training.”
- Therefore, ASU’s piecemeal FTO program could cause the department to be held legally liable under U.S.C 1983 if they can articulate the officer was NOT adequately trained. Considering the fact that the FTO program has previously allowed FTOs and an FTO Supervisor to train rookie officers when they THEMSELVES were not certified to be field training officers, we believe this to be grounds for a pretty significant civil lawsuit against the department.
- Additionally, an FTO Sergeant (ie, the “Supervisor” of the FTO program) could also be held legally liable by allowing non-certified FTOs to train rookies, and failing to intervene when there were allegations of wrongdoings by an FTO (ie, “tacit authorization of the alleged offensive practices”), Therefore, a certain FTO Sergeant who allowed several of her FTOs to terrorize a slew of rookies could be held legally liable in civil court.
- Finally, as stated in this article, training records can be submitted as evidence of training…so what happens when those training records are altered from their original state to “prove” that a rookier officer isn’t qualified to pass field training? Beyond the possibility of a civil suit on behalf of a potential victim and the rookie themselves, this is a blatantly criminal act which has occurred several times at ASUPD.
The most disturbing part about the legal liability incurred as a result of ASUPD’s FTO program? Several members of Command staff, including the Chief have known about the situation at hand. Granted, these people have been removed from the FTO program, but they have all received NO punishment, and their actions have created a legal liability for the department that may linger for a long time.