In recent months, protests have been a constant sight in the streets of Chicago, as residents have banded together to voice their concerns about police misconduct and police brutality. Each week it seems like there’s some new story in the media about a Chicago police officer shooting or otherwise injuring a seemingly innocent person without any consequences. But one of the reasons that police officers are rarely held accountable following these incidents is that state law makes it difficult to prove a case of misconduct against a law enforcement officer in Illinois.
Chicago Police and Qualified Immunity
There are three ways to seek redress for police misconduct. The first is an internal investigation by the department. The second is to work with the state’s attorney’s office to pursue a criminal case. The third way, which can result in financial compensation from a department for injuries sustained by a rogue police officer is to pursue a civil lawsuit.
When pursuing a civil lawsuit against another civilian, it’s typically required that the plaintiff proved that the defendant acted negligently, meaning that the defendant breached a duty of care owed to the plaintiff. This is a relatively low hurdle to clear for many personal injury cases. However, a plaintiff must prove significantly more serious conduct on the part of a police officer when suing them in their official capacity.
Illinois law recognizes qualified immunity for police officers in civil lawsuits. This means that it’s not enough to merely prove that a police officer acted negligently, the plaintiff must prove that his or her injury was the result of the officer’s “willful and wanton conduct.” The plaintiff must show that the police officer then purposely caused injuries without any valid reason such as the plaintiff fighting back during an arrest, or that the officer simply didn’t care about the plaintiff’s safety in the course of his or her actions.
The idea behind qualified immunity is to help police officers do their jobs without the constant fear that they might be sued by every person that they come into contact with. Unfortunately, far too often, police officers seem to think that qualified immunity means they can abuse the rights of citizens without any fear of reprisal. While qualified immunity makes it more difficult to prove a case against a police officer, it’s still not impossible to win a police misconduct case in court, especially with the help of an experienced Chicago civil rights attorney.
Contact a Chicago Civil Rights Lawyer
Police have more authority than the average citizen to detain and arrest suspects, and sometimes they’re even justified in using some force to make those arrests, but police are never entitled violate civil rights by beating or shooting people who have done nothing wrong. If you’ve been injured by police misconduct in Illinois, you need an attorney on your side who will fight to ensure you’re fairly compensated for your injuries. For more information, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.