Can police be sued for not responding to a home invasion?
My son was hired as an apprentice at our local power company. There was over 50 applicants to apply for the position. After my son's first day on the job he was asleep in our guest house in the early morning hours when an armed masked intruder wearing a dark hoodie entered the bedroom and held a gun to his head.
The gunman told my son the job he had was stolen and didn't belong to him. He was also told nobody wanted him there (the crew/journeyman lineman) and if he didn't quit then the armed intruder would kill both my son and his daughter (3 yr. old).
After threatening my son's life the gunman exited the bedroom, shut the door and began to vandalize our kitchen and living area by throwing furniture and such about. My son was able to text "help" to family members and my stepson received the text and responded.
Once my stepson arrived at the home he called 911, and after a 13 minute conversation between him and my son with dispatch, my son was instructed to wait for 5 hours and then go to the substation and give his statement to the police.
Dispatch informed my son and my husband that they didn't feel my son was in danger any longer and therefore didn't want to wake up a deputy to respond to the incident. How can this happen? Can police be sued for not responding to a home invasion like this? What can we do? Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Can police be sued for not responding to a home invasion?":
Angie (Eastsound, WA):
From the facts you present, numerous questions arise:
1) Why didn't your son dial 911 instead of texting others?
2) Why was your stepson on the telephone with the 911 dispatcher for 13 minutes?
3) Why did the 911 dispatcher tell your son to wait for 5 hours, and then after waiting 5 hours, to go to the police substation to give his statement?
4) Why did the 911 dispatcher say she "didn't want to wake up a deputy?"
You can't sue the police for not responding to a home invasion, especially since the home invasion ended and your son was not in apparent danger at the time of the call. Moreover, the police are immune from lawsuits under the legal doctrine of Sovereign Immunity.
Sovereign Immunity protects police officers from liability when the police are acting within the "scope of their duties." This includes a failure to respond to a home invasion after the home invasion ended.
If a police officer had to be concerned about being sued every time he or she acted while on duty, the officer might hesitate to do his or her job, fearing a perceived act or omission could result in legal liability.
Alternately, an example of a police officer being liable would be if the officer was intoxicated while on duty, and as result of that intoxication, he or she acted inappropriately.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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