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Liability Concerns

Though police officers have a duty to apprehend people who break the law
"a police officer's paramount duty is to protect the public"
South Carolina Supreme Court    01-22-2005

News and Video Report about how easy it is to escape from handcuffs.


Trooper Trap is an OFFICER SAFETY device, so how much is too much to save an officer's life?  Departments have said "we do not have any money" or "we have cages" to put off Trooper Trap.  Departments forget the huge liability that is sometimes wearing handcuffs and not always wearing a seatbelt.  Ask your a jury or your Risk Management department who is liable for these examples.

Departments have been sued and lost millions for:  
    1)  Not seatbelting prisoner or detainees in place and the prisoner or detainee was injured somehow.
    2)  Handcuffing or latching prisoner to fixed objects inside the vehicle and the prisoner died, unable to get out.
    3)  Prisoners who have escaped, stealing the patrol unit and struck other vehicles, officers, or people.
    4)  Drivers or passengers of traffic stop vehicles standing along side the road and struck by another vehicle.
    5)  Drivers or passengers of traffic stop vehicles sitting in patrol units not restrained and the patrol unit struck by a vehicle.
Officers and their spouses have sued and won for departments not having available all the safety devices on the market to protect their officers and the public.  Liability is not a threat, it is a reality of everyday life in public safety.  Grants are available for officer safety equipment like this.  These grants usually do not allow departments to pay officer salaries, but equipment only.  Protect yourself and your department with a $195.00 investment in your officer's life, your department's fleet, and the public you have the responsibility of serving and protecting.

Let's use the airline industry as an example about automated external defibrillator (AED):
An evolving legal trend may ultimately lead to higher risks for businesses that fail to purchase and use AEDs.

In 1996, a jury found an airline negligent for not properly training its employees to provide emergency care and for failing to have essential medical equipment, including a defibrillator, on the premises. The jury awarded the plaintiff $500,000 in damages for the resulting death of her 13-year-old daughter.

In another case, a federal judge found another airline negligent for failing to timely provide treatment for a passenger suffering a cardiac emergency and awarded $2.7 million in damages. In light of this case and a variety of other factors, the Federal Aviation Administration is currently considering the mandatory deployment of AEDs on all commercial aircraft.

Related Story #1   Related Story #2   Related Story #3

Related Stories:

DUI driver's family sues over her escape, in which she died
July 20th, 2006    The Plain Dealer    Story Link, 800-628-6689
The family of a woman stopped for drunken driving who was hit and killed by a car on the Ohio Turnpike after escaping from a State Highway Patrol cruiser has sued the agency for failing to lock the car doors.  A handcuffed Francina Pugh of Cleveland was running free in the dark before the trooper driving back to his post even realized she was missing, the claim states.  Pugh's family seeks more than $25,000 in its wrongful death case in the Ohio Court of Claims.  The wrongful-death claim was filed July 12 by Pugh's sister, Miriam Gilliam of Richmond Heights. Pugh is also survived by a son, Curtis, 24, and her mother. They and their attorney would not comment Wednesday.  On June 20, Turner was disciplined and suspended for three days, according to the patrol.

August 22nd, 2007     The Columbus Dispatch     Story Link

The state has agreed to pay $350,000 to the estate of a woman pulled over for suspected drunken driving then killed along the Ohio Turnpike after she escaped from a trooper's vehicle.  The Trooper lost sight of the prisoner  for up to 10 minutes while he searched her car and talked with a tow truck operator.  She escaped and was hit by several cars not far from where she was stopped for erratic driving.  Her body was severed and her skull crushed.  “Obviously this is an unfortunate and tragic incident and our best counsel to the patrol was to settle the case.  The state argued in court papers that while the Trooper made mistakes, he did not intentionally seek to harm the prisoner, who had a blood-alcohol level of 0.23 percent, nearly three times the state limit.  While the patrol rejects being responsible for the prisoner's death, the agency has revamped its training procedures. Troopers now are trained first in the academy, not in the field, on how to handle prisoners in custody. They have to retrain every three years.  The Trooper received a one-day suspension and remains employed.

New York - News Link
January 2006
- Clinton County - A prisoner kicked open a back door of a patrol car while being transported back to jail from court, and fled.  After a manhunt the prisoner was recaptured.

May 2006
- The prisoner was found guilty and sentenced to 2 1/2 to 5 years in prison. (Average $30,000.00 per year)

Prisoner damage patrol car - $1,000.00

Prisoner escape, search for prisoner, bad press, lost handcuffs and shackles - $1,500.00

Cost to tax payer for prison sentence - $77,500.00 to $152,500.00

Prevention:  Trooper Trap - $195.00    Savings of - $77,305.00 to $152,305.00 per prisoner escape event.

Sheriff to pay bills for escape
Associated Press
01-26-06  Billings Gazette  Story Link
GREAT FALLS - Cascade County Sheriff David Castle said Wednesday he plans to pay Lewis and Clark County the full $18,500 it asked for to cover costs associated with capturing an inmate who escaped from a prison transport van.  Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Cheryl Leidle called for the reimbursement earlier this week, saying the Cascade County sheriff's department needed to be held accountable. Her bill included $12,458 for her deputies' time, $702 for the county commissioners' time, $609 for the county's disaster and emergency services personnel time and $4,160 for the Helena Police Department's time.  Leidle said she'd be willing to negotiate, but Castle agreed Wednesday to pay the bill in full.  "I don't want them to be burdened with anything," he said.  Leidle said she's grateful.  "I said all along, this is something we expected to negotiate," she said. "I'm not here to break the bank. I just want to make sure the taxpayers in our county are repaid."  The Montana Highway Patrol also will bill Cascade County when it finishes calculating expenses, Lt. Col. Mike Tooley said. The patrol will not bill the county for the eight hours a helicopter searched the Helena Valley, but it will charge Cascade County for overtime costs, he said.  "We are going to try and be fair about this," Tooley added. "We don't think it will be a lot."  The bills stem from the Jan. 11 escape of inmate Dueston Haggard from a prison transport van just north of Helena. He was arrested about 15 hours after his escape, which wasn't noticed until the van taking inmates from Great Falls to Deer Lodge arrived at its destination.  Haggard, 28, was being transported to prison to serve a 40-year sentence for burglary, but he is also facing murder charges.  He was arrested at a Helena motel after authorities traced calls he made to family members.  Investigators determined that Haggard used a key that was hidden in his shoe to unlock his shackles and that Cascade County Regional Jail employees had ignored proper procedure by failing to strip-search the 11 inmates before they boarded the van.

Police car into a house. Write the check...........

Pennsylvania - Prisoner escape and stolen police car.

In November 2005, two men were arrested for burglarizing a pizza shop.  The men were handcuffed and placed in the back seat of different police cars.  The prisoner partition or "cage" slide window was open.  One of the arrested men was able to get free of the handcuffs, climb into the front of the police car and drive away. 

An officer chased the stolen police car, but crashed during the high-speed chase when the second police cruiser slammed into a house and caught fire with an officer and the other burglary suspect, trapped inside.  Police found the stolen police car abandoned about a mile down the road.

News Article Link

The department not only had a prisoner escape in a stolen police car, but they also exposed themselves to a huge liability by having a high speed chase, crashing and damaging a police car, damaging a house, injuring an officer, and injuring a prisoner.  All of these events are completely preventable with Trooper Trap.  For $195.00, all of these events could have been prevented.  Explain that to a jury.

Nebraska stolen police car and shooting incident - The parents of two children who were shot during a crime spree that began when a 15-year-old runaway stole a Lexington police car have filed a lawsuit against the city. The case began in October 2004 when Wendy Valencia of Elm Creek was reported as a runaway.  According to the lawsuit, after Lexington police found her and arranged to turn her over to Buffalo County authorities, Officer Ken Schumacher left his car running - with an unrestrained Valencia inside - while he got out to talk to a Buffalo County deputy sheriff.  Valencia then drove off in the unmarked cruiser and picked up her boyfriend, Emeterio Guajardo, in Lexington, according to the lawsuit.  The pair then went on a three-day crime spree during which they stole three different vehicles, shot at a Nebraska State Patrol trooper and Phelps County deputies and prompted lockdowns for at least nine different schools, including Lexington Public Schools.  On the last day of the spree the pair were driving a stolen Jeep Cherokee when spotted by Phelps County deputies. During the chase across northernwestern Phelps County the suspects hit speeds of between 70-80 mph. As they were westbound on the morning of Oct. 7, the suspects fired into the passenger-side window of a pickup being driven by Jeffery Wilken of Smithfield. His children, 8-year-old Cheyenne Wilken, and 5-year-old Wyatt Wilken were injured.

Jurors give Salahud-Din maximum punishment - April 30, 2005 - Corpus Christi, TX. - Jurors sentenced Salahud-Din to life in prison for felony escape and a $10,000 fine plus 5 more life sentences for attempted capital murder (for shooting 3 officers and shooting at 2 others).  He will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years.  Over 1 million dollars cost to tax payers which could have been prevented with TROOPER TRAP for $195.00.

February 27, 2005Five police officers have been accused of improperly handcuffing a man who died after officers shocked him nine times with a stun gun.  An internal affairs investigation found that officers violated department policy.  A video taken at the site shows officers handcuffed the suspect behind his back and attached the cuffs to a set that were attached to his ankle, a breach of department policy.

Seatbelt Prisoners - Canada - February 24, 2005 - A RCMP Officer was found guilty of careless driving in a wreck that killed a prisoner being transported without a seatbelt in the back seat of a patrol car. 
  03-10-2004  Original Story Link   
  11-04-2005  Updated Story   
  11-15-2005  RCMP told to review seatbelt policy 

Lawsuit filed following October 2003 prisoner transport death - A family in Texas filed a lawsuit accusing the Arlington police of negligence for failing to properly look out for the prisoner while he was in their custody and for following too closely in the other two patrol cars.  "He may have been doing some things he shouldn't have been doing, but I've got a widow and a couple kids and his parents who want to know what happened," said the family's attorney. "He should have ended up in jail and not the morgue."

Jury awards $39 million for fall during transport to jail - A jury awarded $39 million dollars to an intoxicated man who  resisted arrest, and placed in a prisoner transport van.  During transport, the man stood up, fell down and is now a quadriplegic.
Updated 12-2004
A man who was left paralyzed after his neck was broken during a 1997 arrest by police has found "common ground" that would cover the costs of caring and agreed to a $6 million settlement with the city

Prisoner transport van explodes and six caged prisoners were incinerated - A federal jury awarded $10.5 million to one prisoner's daughter.  "(T)he prisoners were handcuffed and shackled inside a locked cage unable to escape."

Rolling Torture Chambers

Three prisoners file lawsuit over fourth prisoner's escape

CorpWatch - Private Transportation Firms Take Prisoners for a Ride

Van locks might have saved teen inmate

pic-restraint.jpg (10493 bytes)

TROOPER TRAP does not restrict or restrain prisoners,
it is merely an officer safety device.

Some departments have even blamed prisoner escapes on "poor officer safety".  This is not an excuse for desperate people doing desperate things in an attempt not to go to jail by any means.  When dealing with a prisoner, Officers have many responsibilities to completing a safe arrest and transport.  

Here are just a few things Officers are watching for or dealing with usually alone:
    1)  Other motoring traffic.
    2)  Monitoring the prisoner.
    3)  Investigating an accident.
    4)  Passengers or animals in the vehicle.
    5)  Dealing with witnesses or getting statements.
    6)  Other pedestrians, people, or family who might stop or come to the scene of the arrest.
    7)  Plus any other Officer Safety issue plus Prisoner Safety issue that arises during the stop or transport.  

This is where Trooper Trap is vital to a safe and secure arrest followed by transport.  Any escape, the officer will look negligent.

Liability of an officer for permitting an escape of prisoner while in custody
Any officer and his sureties shall be liable, in an action upon his official bond, for the use of the parties aggrieved, in any damages resulting from his voluntarily or negligently permitting the escape of a prisoner in custody. No judgment in such action shall be given unless the jury, by its verdict, finds "that the escape was with the consent of the officer, or by his negligence, or that the prisoner might have been retaken if the officer had, in good faith, made proper efforts to do so.  
Kentucky Law

Here is a sample picture of what your patrol unit looks like at night 
with a prisoner in custody and placed in the unit.

Can an officer safely and confidently watch the prisoner while 
completing a traffic stop and arrest safely?

With the flashing emergency lights, the officer can not safely watch or monitor the prisoners status, seat position, or location.

Safety, Security, and Liability is the question.
Trooper Trap is the only answer.

Hidden Prisoner Escape Costs

After a prisoner escape, department are out other expenses not usually seen by patrol officers.  Figure the dollars of
manpower hours due to the expanded scene investigation, prisoner search, vehicle and/or weapon search, internal
investigation probe, other administrative issues, plus the increase in liability insurance.

Trooper Trap is the money saving answer, ask your Risk Management about discounts.


Some Equipment Costs

Pistol  -  $450.00

Taser  -  $800.00

Transport Cage  -  $400.00

Bullet Proof Vest  -  $400.00

Police Car (outfitted)  -  $30,000.00

Some Repair Costs

Windshield  -  $800.00

Back Car Window  -  $450.00

Front or Back Door  -  $750.00

Front or Back Door Window  -  $100.00

Plus lawsuit, labor, hospital costs, and more.

Civil Liability
Suing the government is the second most popular indoor sport in America.  Over 30,000 civil actions filed against police officers and departments every year, between 4-8% of them resulting in an unfavorable verdict, where the average jury award is $2 million. This isn't even counting the hundreds of cases settled thru out-of-court settlements, which probably runs in the hundreds of millions and involves about half of all cases filed. It may take up to five years to settle a police liability case.

Criminal Justice MegaLink Link - Course JUS 205 Police in Society

Civil Liability - Mistakes

When a person is injured, either financially or medically, the person starts looking for money. A court order to pay money damages is the result of one or more mistakes by employees. During the normal course of police work, people are arrested, places are searched, and force may be required to complete arrests. If the actions are legal, there will not be liability for the agency or its personnel. In cases where the actions are not legal, courts can order agencies and personnel to pay money to those who have been injured. Typical examples of mistakes are:

  • An officer may have made an illegal investigative stop, protective frisk, or arrest.
  • The arrestee may have been injured while being transported to jail or attacked later in his cell.
  • An illegal search or seizure may have damaged another person's property.
  • Another person may have been physically injured by the use of excessive force during an arrest.

Mistakes cost money

by: The Police Law Institute

Article - Often Overlooked Risks of Law Enforcement Vehicle Operations
: LAAW International, Inc.

Seatbelts -
If an arrestee is not restrained and is injured in an accident (s)he may have a viable cause of action against the driver and his/her employer.
Liability may also attach if anyone else in the officer's vehicle sustains injury due to a failure to use available restraint devices.

Violator or Prisoner Placement - 
Placement of people during a traffic stop can create potential liability. There have been numerous injuries and deaths partially caused by officers positioning of people during traffic stops. In one recent case, two officers each in their own squad car stopped a car containing two men and arrested them. The officers placed the men between the stopped cars while handcuffing them. Another driver hit the rear of the rearmost squad car and pushed it into the primary squad car which, in turn, was pushed into the rear of the arrestees' car. All four men were injured when caught between the crashing primary squad and the arrestees' car. It would be correct in stating that the individual who primarily caused the injuries was the driver that struck the back of the rearmost squad. The problem, however, is that when the culpability or blameworthiness is analyzed under the concept of joint and several liability, the officers may end up being financially responsible for all of the injuries incurred. This does not include the additional costs incurred in this incident, such as workers' compensation paid to the two injured officers, damaged squad cars, and the overtime costs incurred filling in for the injured workers.

"Police Created Danger" - Del Rio Lawsuit 
Handcuffed prisoner escaped by stealing police car and crashing into a Customs
Officer at a checkpoint nearly killing the officer, who is responsible?

What is an escape - The reasoning of the Tenth Circuit Court:
[E]very escape scenario is a powder keg, which may or may not explode into violence and result in physical injury to someone at any given time, but which always has the serious potential to do so. A defendant who escapes from a jail is likely to possess a variety of supercharged emotions, and in evading those trying to recapture him, may feel threatened by police officers, ordinary citizens, or even fellow escapees. Consequently, violence could erupt at any time. Indeed, even in a case where a defendant escapes from a jail by stealth and injures no one in the process, there is still a serious potential risk that injury will result when officers find the defendant and attempt to place him in custody.

Risk Management - Liability Concerns or Questions
Ask about a liability insurance rebate with Trooper Trap

CIRMAT, Inc. - Consulting in Risk Management and Training


Trooper Trap is an additional OFFICER SAFETY tool.


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Trooper Trap is not endorsed or affiliated with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.