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By: Mandy D. Hexom
The California Court of Appeal reversed summary judgment in favor of the City of San Diego which was sued by a family of a deceased motorcyclist and its passenger who led the police on a high-speed chase. The reason for reversal was uncommon. The pursuing police officers failed to do an hour of required training related to vehicular pursuits. The appellate court went through a painstaking analysis of the regulations applicable to police officer training requirements, finding that the City misinterpreted the language in those regulations. The Court of Appeal determined that the City’s interpretation was “clearly incorrect” and found the police officers were not just required to have “periodic” training which the City argued included training at the police academy. Instead, the Court of Appeal agreed with plaintiffs who argued that the City failed to adequately train its officers on police pursuits because the City only required its officers to watch a 25-minute video that had no testing involved.
This decision is a wake-up call to other law enforcement institutions in California. This may also be a continuing trend in some jurisdictions outside of California after recent tragedies such as George Floyd’s death and the Uvalde school shooting. While various legislators and local agencies are working on addressing much needed improvement in police training and accountability, courts may be scrutinizing various police training regulations more carefully. This is a cardinal decision in California that will likely have a rippling effect on police training and pending cases not just in California, but throughout the United States.
(See link to the decision: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1912182.html)