Updates on cases, laws, and other topics of interest to local governments

Subscribe by Email

Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Subscribe in a Reader

Follow Municipal Minute on Twitter


Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Court Declines to Find City Liable for Police Officer Off-Duty Activities

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a decision in Bohanon v. City of Indianapolis rejecting a claim that a "gap" in a city policy constituted municipal action to establish city liability for police officer off-duty activities.

On August 7, 2013, two off-duty officers in plain clothes were drinking at a bar when another bar patron became loud and combative with bar employees and refused to leave when asked. The off-duty police officers identified themselves as police officers and told the patron to leave. The patron subsequently threw one of the officer’s badges to the ground. According to the court opinion, the officers then punched the patron, dragged him out of the bar, and kicked him until he was unconscious. The patron filed suit against the officers and the city alleging civil rights violations. Although the jury ruled in favor of the patron and awarded damages, the judge granted the city's motion for judgment as a matter of law, reversing the damages award. The patron appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the bar patron argued that a "gap" in a city police department policy was sufficient to establish city liability for the actions of its off-duty police officers. The city policy prohibited off-duty police officers under the influence of drugs or alcohol from taking any police action except under a narrow exception to protect life and limb in emergency situations. The Seventh Circuit disagreed with the patron, finding that a gap in policy amounts to municipal action only if the municipality has notice that its policy will cause constitutional violations. Here, the Court found no evidence that similar incidents had occurred. The Court also found that it was not obvious that the city policy prohibiting police action while under the influence subject to a narrow and specific exception would lead off-duty officers to use excessive force in violation of the Constitution. Finally, the court determined that the city policy did not cause constitutional violations; instead, the officers violated the policy through their actions, which caused the patron's injuries.


Post Authored by Katie Nagy & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


Post a Comment