Michigan Court of Appeals Continues to Refine and Apply Odom v Wayne County to Law Enforcement Officers’ Discretionary Arrest Powers

In this case, Norris v Police Officers of Lincoln Park et al the Michigan Court of Appeals continues to apply the decision I secured from the Michigan Supreme Court in Odom v Wayne County to further define and strengthen the discretionary arrest powers that law enforcement officers have in the performance of their duties. Here, the Court really pulls all of the relevant prior case law together, starting with the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in Firestone v Rice (1888), which defined what is meant by “good faith” in the context of a law enforcement officer’s decision to arrest an individual and the means by which that arrest is effectuated. The Court makes clear that as long as a law enforcement officer is acting within the scope of his or her authority, performing a discretionary function like making an arrest, and acting without malice, he or she will be free from tort liability under Michigan’s governmental immunity provisions. Here, the individual officers were responding to a 911 call regarding a speeding vehicle on Interstate 75. After the officers managed to stop the vehicle, the occupant was combative with the officers and a K9 police dog. The vehicle’s driver sued the police officers and the city, claiming gross negligence, assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims. The trial court denied the motion for summary disposition filed by the officers, which was based on Odom’s governmental immunity analysis. The Court of Appeals reversed, noting that the decision to arrest and the means by which it was performed were to be judged from a subjective perspective of the officer responding to the scene and not by “hindsight” analysis of what the officer should have or could have done. This opinion is another example in a long line of post-Odom cases that continues to refine and strengthen protection for Michigan’s law enforcement officers as they go about their daily job of serving the citizens and protecting the public.

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