Following is an article I wrote for the current issue of “The Police Chief” magazine, which is published by the International Association of Chiefs’ of Police (IACP) and distributed nationally and internationally to all members of IACP.

As we all know, the current environment reflects open hostility by certain members of the public towards law enforcement. As a result of several highly publicized incidents involving officer involved shootings, there is a greater demand for more effective supervision and control over the actions of officers. The calls for “transparency” is constant and is reflected in the development of body worn cameras and the belief that such technology will provide greater accountability of law enforcement officers and the actions taken by them.

In addition to the public’s demands, on January 29, 2016, the Police Executive Research Foundation (PERF) published “30 Guiding Principles” involving officers’ use of force. PERF’s “Guiding Principles” call for, among other things, developing policies regarding the actions of officers, increased supervision of officers, and new training of officers involved in critical incidents where force is used.

In addition, courts have held supervisors and executives liable for negligently supervising officers – even where there is no direct supervisory responsibility. Hopefully, some of the issues set forth in the article will provide those responsible for supervising peace officers with some guidance as to their legal obligations and the concerns identified by the courts. The courts have referred to law enforcement officers as having awesome powers over the public and the obligation to insure they are properly carrying out their duties fall on those responsible to supervise their actions.

The legal concept is called “negligent” supervision, not necessarily deliberate or intentional failure to properly supervise. Nonetheless, a supervisor or executive can find himself or herself personally liable for a subordinate’s improper or unconstitutional actions, if they knew or should have known of the misconduct and failed to take appropriate steps to prevent it from continuing.

The concerns regarding supervision of subordinates is prevalent in all employment situations. However, the need to properly supervise becomes more significant when the employee has the responsibility to provide for the public’s safety. That is true when one thinks of, for example, airline pilots, train conductors, medical personnel or, obviously, law enforcement.

The purpose of the following article is to provide “food for thought.” When dealing with issues of supervision, securing assistance in addressing an employee’s performance, providing support, counseling and/or discipline is imperative. As such, and as with all legal issues, it is imperative to secure advice and guidance from your agency’s legal counsel.

As always, if you wish to discuss this matter in greater detail, feel free to contact me at 714-446–1400 or via email at mjm@jones-mayer.com. Information on www.jones-mayer.com is for general use and is not legal advice. The mailing of this Client Alert Memorandum is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.