The California Supreme Court on Monday unanimously rejected a lawsuit that sought to make it easier to hold police liable for crashes that occur during pursuits.
A state law says police agencies are immune from liability if they have a written pursuit policy, provide annual training about chases, and require that all officers certify in writing that they have read and understood the policy.
However, the state Supreme Court said it would be almost impossible for large agencies with thousands of officers to show that every officer has met the certification provision.
“A requirement may exist even if not every peace officer complies with it,” Associate Justice Ming Chin wrote for the court.
The decision came in a lawsuit filed against the Southern California city of Gardena by Irma Ramirez, whose son was killed in 2015 after an officer bumped the pickup truck he was in during a chase and sent it crashing into a light pole. He was a suspect in an armed robbery.
Ramirez’s attorney, Abdalla Innabi, said the decision makes people less safe by protecting departments no matter “how negligent, how egregious, how reckless” the pursuit.
“The standard is now so low that any department will be immune,” he said. “All they have to say is, ‘We have a requirement,’ and that’s good enough.”
Chin said opening up agencies to liability for a single officer’s failure to complete the written certification would reduce the incentive for agencies to craft a pursuit policy and provide training.
SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press