States are split on whether tort liability may be imposed on local governments for police brutality/excessive force/misconduct cases. Some states permit the imposition of tort liability for their police officers’ intentional actions while on the job. Some refuse to impose tort liability, arguing that such conduct is not within the scope of employment. The Maryland Court of Appeals issued a new opinion that stakes out Maryland’s position on this issue with newfound clarity.
At issue in Baltimore City Police Dept. v. Potts, 468 Md. 265 (2020) was criminal police misconduct by Baltimore City police officers could be considered actions within the scope of their employment under the Local Government Tort Claims Act (“LGTCA”). The misconduct here was next level. Stopping suspects without probable cause, assaulting them, and planting handguns on suspects to give them grounds for arrest.
Maryland’s Court of Appeals held this police misconduct was within the scope of the officer’s employment because they were done in furtherance of police business and incidental to authorized police conduct. Therefore, the Police Department is liable under the LGTCA.