Civil rights remedies come into play for willful police conduct that violates an individual's constitutional rights.
Civil Rights Laws and Police Misconduct
A statute known as Section 1983 is the primary civil rights law victims of police misconduct rely upon. This law was originally passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 called Section 1983 because that is where the law has been published, within Title 42, of the United States Code. Section 1983 makes it unlawful for anyone acting under the authority of state law to deprive another person of his or her rights under the Constitution or federal law.
Failure to Intervene
Officers have a duty to protect individuals from constitutional violations by fellow officers. Therefore, an officer who witnesses a fellow officer violating an individual's constitutional rights may be liable to the victim for failing to intervene.
Police officers may be held liable under the theory of failure to intervene, if they stand by and do not take action, when circumstances dictate that action should have been taken. See Warren v. Williams, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18900 (D. Conn. 2006). Police officers “have an affirmative duty to intercede on the behalf of a citizen whose constitutional rights are being violated in their presence by other officers.” O’Neill v. Krzeminski, 839 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1988). “An officer who fails to intercede is liable for the preventable harm caused by the actions of the other officers where that officer observes or has reason to know: … (3) that any constitutional violation has been committed by a law enforcement official.” Anderson v. Branen, 17 F.3d 552, 557 (2d Cir. 1994) (internal citations omitted.) Whether an officer had a “realistic opportunity to intervene to prevent the harm from occurring” is a “question of fact for the jury…” Id. See also Ricciuti v. N.Y.C. Transit Authority, 124 F.3d 123, 129 (2d Cir. 1997); Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 652 (7th Cir. 2001)
It is well-established that an omission to act, when coupled with a duty to act, may provide a basis for liability. See Randall v. Prince George's County, 302 F.3d 188, 203 (4th Cir. 2002). The concept of bystander liability is premised on a law officer’s duty to uphold the law and protect the public from illegal acts, regardless of who commits them. Id. Therefore, if a bystanding officer (1) is confronted with a fellow officer’s illegal act, (2) possesses the power to prevent it, and (3) chooses not to act, he may be deemed an accomplice and treated accordingly. Id. See also O’Neill v. Krzeminski, 839 F.2d 9, 11-12 (2d Cir. 1988) (observing that officer who stands by and does not seek to assist a victim could be a “tacit (tae sit) collaborator”).
Via Randy L. Dixon Rivera