City Not Entitled To Immunity Because It Could Not Prove The Length Of Its Officer Training

CATEGORY: Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Safety
DATE: Oct 06, 2022

In 2017, a San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officer was monitoring an intersection after the SDPD received complaints of speeding motorists there.  The officer observed a motorcycle: approaching a traffic light that was cycling from green to red, and then accelerating through the light after it turned red.  After the officer activated his lights and siren, the motorcyclist accelerated his speed.  After losing sight of the motorcyclist for a second time during the pursuit, the officer terminated the pursuit to respond to a high-priority call regarding a knife threat.  The officer did not tell dispatch that he had terminated the pursuit.

In the meantime, a second SDPD officer had been waiting along the highway for the pursuit to reach his location.  When the officer motioned for the motorcycle to pull over, the driver instead fled.  The motorcyclist proceeded through another red light and then swerved into a parking lot, lost control, and crashed into a retaining wall.  The motorcyclist died at the scene.  His estate initiated a wrongful death and negligence claim against the City.

The City moved for summary judgment on the ground that it was immune from liability under Vehicle Code Section 17004.7.  That law grants immunity to an agency for collisions involving vehicle pursuits, if the agency “adopts and promulgates a written policy on, and provides regular and periodic training on an annual basis for, vehicular pursuits…”  The trial court granted the City’s motion and the estate appealed.

The California Court of Appeal found that the trial court was wrong to rule for the City because certain material facts were in dispute regarding whether the City was entitled to immunity under Vehicle Code Section 17004.7.  The Court found that the City failed to prove it complied with the California regulations which set the standards for the required policy and peace officer training on vehicle pursuits, including an annual one-hour minimum training time requirement.

Vehicle Code Section 17004.7(b) sets the requirements an agency must meet to receive immunity for vehicle pursuits.  First, this law requires agencies to provide training on an annual basis.  Second, this law requires: an agency to have a written policy involving vehicle pursuits; and officers to certify in writing that they have received, read, and understand the policy.  Third, this law specifies 12 “minimum standards” for creating a policy for the safe conduct of motor vehicle pursuits.  Finally, this law defines “regular and periodic training” as “annual training” that shall: cover each of the subjects and elements described in the law, and comply with certain training guidelines.  Those guidelines require any vehicle pursuit course to include consideration of 1) when to initiate a pursuit, 2) the number of involved law enforcement units permitted, 3) responsibilities of primary and secondary law enforcement units, 4) driving tactics, 5) helicopter assistance, 6) communications, 7) capture of suspects, 8) termination of a pursuit, 9) supervisory responsibilities, 10) blocking, ramming, boxing, and roadblock procedures, 11) speed limits, 12) inter-jurisdictional considerations, 13) conditions of the vehicle, driver, roadway, weather, and traffic, 14) hazards to uninvolved bystanders or motorists, 15) reporting and post-pursuit analysis.  The regulations require that the training is at minimum 1-hour in length, and occur annually.

In this case, the City did not demonstrate that its vehicle pursuit policy training was at least one hour in duration in the training year prior to the incident.  Instead, the evidence indicated the training was less than 30 minutes in length.  Because the law and the regulations set a minimum one-hour time requirement, the Court held that the City was not entitled to the Vehicle Code Section 17004.7 immunity.

Flores v. City of San Diego, 2022 WL 4244284.


Immunity from damages resulting from vehicle pursuits only occurs when a public agency can show full compliance with many regulatory and training requirements.  LCW can assist agencies to ensure their vehicle pursuit policies are consistent with the law.


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