Articles Posted in Police Negligence & Misconduct

Readers of both this blog and my Massachusetts criminal law blog, , know that I’ve written a great deal recently on the subject of the 3 deaths that resulted last month from a car crash in Cotuit Massachusetts, that followed a high-speed police car chase of a criminal defendant who was out on probation at the time. In fact, I wrote a 3-part post on that subject, which dealt with the criminal law aspects of that case and probation issues.

Today’s post here deals with potential civil liability of the Town of Mashpee Police Department, for engaging in a high-speed chase of that suspect, who according to police reports was driving at speeds of 100 MPH or faster. To its credit, the Mashpee Police Department issued a public statement just a couple of days ago, publicly acknowledging that the police should have broken off the high-speed chase in the interests of public safety. Readers will likely have two questions: 1) Can the Police Department here be held liable for the 3 deaths that resulted – one of whom was Kevin P. Quinn, a 32 year-old Afghanistan combat veteran who was killed by the speeding driver being pursued by Mashpee Police – even worse so – after he had just left the hospital where his wife had given birth to his and his wife’s newborn son? 2) Why would a police department call off a pursuit of a criminal suspect?

First, as to whether a municipal police department can be held civilly liable (i.e., ordered to pay monetary damages) for the injuries or death of someone caused by a high-speed chase by its officers, the answer is: Yes – depending on the specific circumstances involved. The legal test is one of negligence, and in order to determine if the police were negligent under the factual circumstances that were present, a number of factors will need to be weighed as evidence, including but not limited to:

I’m going to comment on something tonight, but what occurred surrounding the events that I’m going to speak to in this post are so lacking in any common sense on any level, so thoroughly disproportionate to rational and reasoned thinking, and so tragic, that I wasn’t immediately sure if I should post it here in my Injury Law blog, or my Criminal Law blog.  The events in this incident strain belief, and the non-answers surrounding it, issued to today’s date by the Police Department involved, further strain credulity.

Full disclosure, before proceeding further:  I am basing my understanding of the events described below, on published reporting from The Boston Globe,  MSN and other media sources. (click on link for Boston Globe story published July 17 2017.) I have not yet had the opportunity to fact-check every description of this incident that follows.  However, based on the media accounts that I have reviewed, these reports are consistent with each other, and thus as of this date I have no reason to doubt their fundamental accuracy.  If, after publishing this post I learn of any errors within it, I will issue an appropriate correction in this blog (in a separate post) promptly.

A young man killed himself Saturday night, July 8, in the wealthy town of Hingham. His name was Austin Reeves.  He was 26 years old, and universally liked by all who knew him – employers, friends, schoolmates, and more.  Said one of his employers of him, “He was charming and funny and outgoing. He could talk to anyone, and everyone always enjoyed him.”   Austin had no history of either mental illness or violence of any kind. After finishing working for his employer at a 75th birthday party reception earlier that day and evening, Austin had a phone conversation with a former girlfriend, with whom his relationship had failed a month earlier.  Something was said  in that conversation that apparently hurt him a great deal.  During the conversation, Austin mentioned that he owned a gun.  Note:  No information to date indicates that Austin made any specific threat in that conversation.  However this former girlfriend became worried about him, and phoned the Hingham Police Department at approximately 9:19 PM, asking them to simply conduct a wellness check on Austin at his home – that is all.  The Hingham Police then called the Reeves household, where they spoke to Austin’s father, Russell Reeves, and asked Russell if Austin had a gun in his possession.

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