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Better to trust juries than accept police misconduct | READER COMMENTARY

Sen. Michael Hough opposed lifting the cap on damages for police wrongdoing, saying, “How do you continue to have a police force when you are, at any time, facing unlimited liabilities?” There are a couple of answers to that (“Maryland legislators debate lifting caps on how much cities can be forced to pay for rogue police actions,” Sept. 24).

First, it is the responsibility of the municipality to see that its police force is trained and supervised in a way that limits harm to others from officers' behavior. The idea of rogue police is largely fictitious: People of bad will do what they believe they can get away with, and their beliefs are fostered by their supervisors. If police behave appropriately, lawsuits will become extremely rare.

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Second, in the few cases where lawsuits are still brought, the evidence will be evaluated by juries. If a department is known for scrupulous respect for civil rights, jurors will not be inclined to think in terms of large punitive damages but will focus on the actual needs of the victim. There might still be a large award if someone had been incapacitated, but it would be a rarity.

Also, the law might be amended to ensure that if injuries resulted from clear violations of departmental policy, some reasonable amount of the damages, perhaps proportionate to pay, would be paid by the officer responsible. That could help both to deter wrongdoing and to reduce the cost to the jurisdiction.

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Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

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