Failure to Train: Protecting Responder Organizations from a Shifting Legal Threat
As the nation debates the role of police in the community, efforts are underway to redefine the concept of qualified immunity and expand the degree to which public safety organizations are held accountable for the actions of their personnel. This paper traces the modern evolution of failure-to-train lawsuits against law enforcement and other public-sector entities, which effectively begins with 1989’s City of Canton v. Harris. From there, the legal concept of failure-to-train becomes a labyrinth of rules and procedures, with more changes on the horizon. Still, some key factors remain essential to organizations seeking both to prevent misconduct and to defend against allegations. One is effective and continuous training, and another is comprehensive, accurate, and easily accessible data recording that training. This paper presents a compelling case for the twin roles of training and documentation in the ever-shifting environment of public safety.