You feel like your civil rights might have been violated by an officer, you might be asking yourself “who should I sue – the officer, the department, or the city?”  Most people think you need to sue the police department, because that’s who the officer works for –  like the LAPD.  However, the LAPD is not a proper Defendant.  You actually need to sue the officer individually and sue the city, county or state that the officer works for.  For example, if an LAPD officer violates your rights, you need to sue the Officer and the City of Los Angeles – not the LAPD.  If it was a Sheriff that violated your rights, you would need to sue that Deputy and the County of Los Angeles – not the Sheriff’s Department.

Sometimes a case might be filed as or referred to as “plaintiff v. Los Angeles Police Department.”  But even then, it’s actually the Officer and the city itself that are being sued and not the department.

That’s because the Los Angeles Police Department is an ‘organization’ under the City of Los Angeles. So, any civil rights situation involving police misconduct against you or your loved ones means that you can then sue the offending officer(s) and the City of Los Angeles (who they, essentially, work for).

Think about it. Who pays the LAPD? The city. So, the city is who you’re going to want to target in your lawsuit if you are a victim of police misconduct, wrongful arrest or brutality.

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How do you go about suing the city if an officer has infringed upon my civil rights?

You’ll need to find an experienced civil rights lawyer in Los Angeles who knows how to navigate the process and build a strong case against the city or county. To build a case against the city or county, a civil rights lawyer would have to prove that the misconduct was a result of an institutional problem and not just a one-off situation. An attorney would also have to prove that the city was aware of the misconduct and did nothing to stop it. And furthermore, they would need to show that the city failed to properly train or supervise the officers involved. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

This is not to discourage you from suing or bringing your case to us. On the contrary, bring it. Highlighting the amount of work that goes behind a civil rights case is merely to point out the seriousness behind such infringements. This is good to know because a civil rights attorney, with that amount of work in mind, will only take a case that they feel you can win.

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A few examples of cases where people have successfully sued and won are:

  • Lyle Spruill v County of Los Angeles et al
  • Estate of Anthony Soderberg and Shirley Soderberg vs. DOES and Los Angeles Police Department

What are some examples of institutional problems that could lead to a successful lawsuit against the city?

Some examples are:

  • a police department that has a history of using excessive force
  • a police department that has a history of making wrongful arrests
  • a police department that has a history of discriminatory practices

What are some examples of police misconduct?

  • excessive force
  • wrongful arrest
  • discriminatory practices
  • failure to properly train or supervise officers

To recap, if there are lawyers who sue police departments then they are actually suing, on your behalf, the city, county or state as well as the officers involved. But rest assured, there are civil rights attorneys like Greg Kirakosian who have a proven track record of winning cases against the city and state.

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