Saturday, January 16, 2021

Illinois approves sweeping criminal justice reforms that will have torts consquences

Last week, the Illinois General Assembly adopted sweeping criminal justice reforms that include the elimination of cash bail and a requirement that police officers in the state wear body cameras. Some of the adopted provisions are very good; others will have unintended negative consequences; but the one provision that caught my eye is one that few people have been talking about.

According to the bill, Illinois police officers will have a “duty to intervene” if they see another officer using excessive force, even if the officer outranks them.

This is not unique as other jurisdictions have adopted similar provisions in the past year.  See here, for example.  But it is interesting to me because it opens the door to a whole new possibility of civil liability by creating a duty in tort law.  What is going to happen if an officer does not intervene and then gets sued in civil court?  Will courts recognize the right to sue or will they give immunity to the police departments?  Will the court say that the duty is not one that can be enforced through tort law because it is contrary to the generally accepted view that there is no duty to help?

I have not seen the actual bill so I do not know if it addresses these questions in any way; but I will update this post when I find out...

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