If the police damage your private property while pursuing a suspect, who pays for repairs?

I watch Cops once in a while. It’s not uncommon for a fleeing suspect to damage an innocent third party’s private property during his flight from the long arm of the law. Understandably, when this happens, a victim’s only recourse is to seek (unlikely) recompense from said suspect (although the police from time to time get criticized, and even sued, for continuing motor vehicle pursuits past the point where the suspect began seriously endangering the public).

But every so often while pursuing a suspect, the police themselves damage the private property of an innocent third party. In one recent episode a rotten wooden fence collapsed as the officers were clambering over it; in another instance, the suspect was hiding in the cab of a semi (not his), and the cops deliberately smashed the window with a baton to startle/intimidate him into submission.

Do the cops compensate the property owner in cases like this?

I’m sure somebody’s insurance covers it. Either the department’s, the third party’s, or both (in many states the insurers get together after an incident and assign percentages of “fault” in an often ridiculous charade…I digress).

Tax dollars

Oh, give it a rest!

Give what a rest?

OP asked a question, it’s an honest answer.

I understand that fictional TV shows are probably not the best source for answering a GQ, but a couple of episodes of NYPD Blue dealt with this issue, and the show generally made a pretty good effort to get some of the basic stuff correct.

In one episode, two of the detectives, Andy Sipowicz and Bobby Simone, look through a window and see the body of a shooting victim lying on the floor of an apartment. They kick down the door to the apartment in order to get in.

Later in the episode, the owner of the building asks about fixing the door. The exchange went something like this:
Owner: “The city’s going to pay to replace the door you broke, right?”

Andy: “You gotta file a claim with the Corporation Counsel. How old do you plan to live to be?”

**Owner (rolling eyes): **“Terrific!”

The Corporation Counsel is basically New York City’s legal department. I’m not sure if filing a claim means that there’s a form you fill out and they reimburse you, or if it would mean an actual lawsuit.

Fault-based insurance keeps premiums down for automobile owners who do not file claims, on the statistically-valid premise that such people are either safer, luckier, or take care of their problems personally without going through insurance. The alternative is no-fault insurance, which is more expensive for the average driver. See: Michigan.

This is only my opinion, but no-fault insurance arguably leads to a perceived diffusion of responsibility. After all, if you cause an accident, YOU won’t be paying for it in increased premiums–everybody in the state will, and then only pennies a year. So what incentive is there to drive carefully?

I don’t think police, or their departments, or their cities, generally pay willing for damage that they cause. You have to sue them, and I don’t know how often those suits are successful. Sovereign immunity and all that.

There was a case in Los Osos, CA some years ago where cops pursued someone onto someone’s property. The perp climbed over a wooden fence. The cops drove their car right through the fence. The property owner’s horse got out. I don’t know what became of the horse. Owner sued city. City said: Tough shit. Go sue the perp. (Good luck with that.)

I sat in small claims court one day in Santa Clara, CA just to see what goes on there. There was an apartment owner suing the city because cops smashed one of his doors without a warrant. The story went something like: Cops entered an apartment (with a warrant I think) on suspicion there were illegal drugs there, and smashed open a locked inside door. Somewhere they found some clue implicating another unit in the same building, so they demanded that the owner let them into that unit. Owner refused. Cops smashed in that door. City refused to pay; owner sued in small claims court; city’s defense was that it’s always the perp’s liability, so sue him. But it wasn’t clear if there were any real perps anywhere in this case. I don’t know what the court decided.

You hear any number of cases of drug cops tearing apart someone’s house or car or clothing on the faintest whiff of a hint of a suspicion of illegal drugs. Do any of those people ever get compensated? One never seems to hear of it.

Filing a claim is generally just a procedural technicality. Maybe they’ll pay the claim, but not likely, and not often. More often, filing the claim is simply the first technical step that then paves the way for a subsequent lawsuit.

Page on thefreethoughtproject.com

Of course, this summary seems a little biased.

Of course there’s bias! It does not mention how one of the deputies (a Nimmi Autry, special agent of a task force of Sheriff’s Dept) involvolved in the above is now facing a few civil rights violations at a Fed level. See here The deputy basically lied to a judge to get the search warrant, and therefore the entire warrant process was flawed and no search warrant ws legally obtained. Might change the stance of the Sheriff’s department a bit when they did not have any legal warrant to begin with, I would think. But that statement was likely made before the malfeasance was discovered…

But catching, and holding responsible, the cops being crooked is a tough thing to do, of course.

It’s not just biased, it’s horseshit. They took standard affirmative defenses and interpreted them in the most ridiculous way possible. That is not to say that the sheriff’s office did not act wrongfully, just that what you quoted is in no way an accurate characterization of their arguments.

You give it a rest!

(Hint - “somewhat” was sarcasm)

But you’re missing the point, Police malfeasance may be the reason why they get compensation. The initial reaction of the police was not How horrible" or “How can we avoid this in the future?” (I.e. use no-knock warrants only as a last resort) Their initial reaction was they did nothing wrong, if this is what happens during a raid that’s not their problem.

I thought I had read somewhere that if the police during a warrant find what they are looking for, then you are responsible for the costs. If they don’t find the evidence, or any other obvious evidence of crime, then they are on the hook. But googling, I also find commentaries that any warrant validly served they do not have to pay for damages.

Let’s use a K9 vehicle drug search as an example.

The dog’s indication is an active scratch, in the process of indicating the dog does some damage. Nothing of suspect is found and the owner of the vehicle wants compensation for the damage done by the drug dog because of a false indication. The Police Department is required to pay for the damage, which comes from the tax payer funding. You can go to your local department and request an audit and find out how much money is spent paying off lawsuits and or officer neglect.

If during the dog’s indication of scratching the dog does damage but does a proper indication then zero compensation will be due to owner for damages incurred. In fact depending on where you live they may just take your vehicle and auction it.

Yes, but that’s a personal injury case, not a property damage case, which is what the OP was asking about.

This is not directly comparable but may be illustrative.

I once had my car towed by the city for parking illegally in Manhattan. When I got it back from their lot, they had damaged the transmission in the course of towing it. They managed to tinker with it enough for me to drive it home, and they gave me a form that I could send in to get reimbursed for the cost of repairs. I sent in the form, and got back a letter saying that they declined to pay anything.

I’m not sure what would have happened had I pursued it further. As it happens, my mechanic fiddled a bit more and managed to improve things and charged me $10 (after that the lower gears never worked again, but I never used them anyway, so I dropped the issue). But I suspect that this may be how things work any time you’re trying to get reimbursed by the city. There’s an official process that seems simple and straightforward, but so many procedural and legal obstacles in your way that it’s generally not worth bothering.

What was the Grisham novel, “Rainmaker”? Always deny claims at first, and hope they go away.

Bou-Bou can take comfort knowing his injury was the result of police action against a major criminal. This was no mere $10 shoplifiting rap, it was a $50 drug transaction.
With that kind of money on the line, cops were probably hoping to capture Joaquín Guzmán Loera in person.