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CAN AN OFFICER BE SUED FOR LEAVING A DETAINEE IN AN UNSAFE LOCATION

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A young woman is arrested for disturbing the peace.  The arrest took place close to an airport and was generally a safe location.  While detained in police custody, the young lady alternated between being calm and manic.  The police were notified by her parents that she suffered from bipolar disorder, but the officers did not believe the parents. The thought being that the young lady was just being uncooperative and wanted out of custody. No treatment was sought for the young lady.

She was released on her own recognizance and walked out of the police station which was located in a high crime area.  The officers kept her cell phone and she was not familiar with the location of the station.  She walked toward a public housing project and joined a group of people who all went to a vacant apartment.  Sometime later a man comes to the apartment and makes all persons there leave, except for the young lady who he proceeds to rape at knife point.  In her effort to escape she jumps out of the seventh floor window and somehow survives, but with severe brain damage.

She sues and the officers claim qualified immunity. The court finds for some of the officers but not all.  The officers who ignored the signs of mental health problems and released her into a dangerous environment did not have immunity.  The court cited other examples of officers putting people in danger.  One in which the officers arrested the driver of a car and left the keys with the intoxicated passenger.  Another where a driver was arrested and the car towed leaving the passenger in a high crime area, who was then raped while walking home.

While officers are not required to be guarantors of a person’s safety, it is also clear that consideration must be given not to put a person in a situation where there is a likelihood of injury.

 

 

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