Law School Case Brief
Chew v. Gates - 27 F.3d 1432 (9th Cir. 1994)
In determining reasonableness, the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's U.S. Const. amend. IV interests must be balanced against the countervailing government interests at stake. To assess the gravity of a particular intrusion on U.S. Const. amend. IV rights, the factfinder must evaluate the type and amount of force inflicted. In weighing the governmental interests involved the following should be taken into account: the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. The relevant inquiry is, moreover, an objective one - good intentions will not redeem an otherwise unreasonable use of force, nor will evil intentions transform an objectively reasonable use of force into a constitutional violation. Because questions of reasonableness are not well-suited to precise legal determination, the propriety of a particular use of force is generally an issue for the jury.
A police officer stopped Thane Carl Chew for a traffic violation, and Chew ran from the scene and hid. The officer later discovered that there were outstanding felony warrants against Chew. The officer sent a police dog to find and hold Chew, and the dog seriously injured Chew. Chew filed an action under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 against the officer, defendant police department officials, and defendant municipality. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant officials and defendant municipality. Chew appealed.
Was there sufficient evidence to establish that the use of police dogs to find and apprehend suspects was deadly force or unreasonable force?
The United States Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant officials, holding that they had qualified immunity because it was not clearly established that the use of dogs to find and apprehend suspects was deadly force or unreasonable force. The Court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant municipality because there were issues of material fact as to whether the officer's use of the police dog was reasonable and as to whether defendant municipality's policy on the use of police dogs caused Chew’s injuries.
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