Jan 22, 2013 |


Jan 22, 2013 - Wrongful Death

The Board of probation and Parole says it should not be held accountable for the death of an off-duty Philadelphia police officer who was shot to death by a paroled criminal. In a court document asking that a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by the officer’s family be dismissed, the board stated “This is a classic case reflecting the harsh realities that the law does not require government to ensure the safety of its citizens from private violence and that not every tragedy results in governmental financial compensation to the victim.” That, in a nutshell, is their argument.

The officer was killed as he walked home after a shift at his precinct. The alleged shooter was a man out on parole after an armed robbery conviction. Technically, according to the lawsuit, the suspect should have been confined to his house with an electronic ankle bracelet monitor, but the man didn’t have a phone line so the system could not be installed. Consequently, he could roam at will and that resulted in a “systemic breakdown” of the parole system due to the lack of “proper and effective policies and procedures to protect the citizenry at large and, in particular, police officers.”

The Board’s attorneys argue the lawsuit is flawed and doesn’t meet the requirements of Pennsylvania’s wrongful death statutes. Furthermore, they say, the 11th Amendment to the Constitution forbids lawsuits by private citizens against state and federal agencies performing their official duties. The suit names the individual members of the Probation and Parole Board as defendants, and the state says they, too, should be dropped from the suit because they were not “personally involved” in the events leading to the officer’s death.

While the shooting suspect had a criminal record, the Board argues that there was no indication he was inclined to violence or had a grudge against police officers. Finally, the defendants reminded the court that the Constitution’s Due Process clause does not impose an affirmative responsibility on the state to protect its citizens from violence. The plaintiffs say they will press on.

Source: Pennsylvania Record, “Defendants in Phila. Officer’s wrongful death suit seek dismissal,” Jon Campisi, Jan. 3, 2013

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