Police Procedures Expert Witness Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant for use of excessive force during a police stop.  Plaintiff hired a Police Procedures Expert Witness to provide an expert opinion, which was challenged by the defendant.  The court denied the motion.

Facts:  This case (STOKES v. PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE, TROOP B-BELLE VERNON et al – United States District Court – Western District of Pennsylvania – July 10th, 2018) involves a traffic stop that grew into a pursuit.  The plaintiff has brought claims for assault, battery, and use of excessive force against the defendants and has hired Dr. Paul McCauley, Ph.D., FACFE as a Police Procedures Expert Witness.  The defendants have filed a motion to preclude Dr. McCauley from testifying as an expert witness in this case.

Discussion:  The court notes that Dr. McCauley is a former Pennsylvania municipal police officer and ha extensive background and experience in general police training.  In addition, he has been a state certified police training instructor in three states and is a Professor Emeritus of Criminology at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Dr. McCauley has taught the policies and procedures of police operations and has written or published more than 80 papers, books, and chapters on the topic.  In addition, he has been qualified as a police procedures expert in state and federal courts in more than thirty states.  In forming his opinion Dr. McCauley reviewed the Pennsylvania State Police Incident Report as well as the Police Criminal Complaint, and the Dash Cam video.

The defendants argue that Dr. McCauley’s opinions are subjective and unsupported, follow a review of a few chosen pieces of information, and have numerous impermissible legal conclusions that usurp the role of the jury.  The court disagrees, stating that Dr. McCauley relies on certain relevant materials as well as his experience, knowledge, education, training, and personal qualifications, thus making his testimony permissible.  The court further opines that his reliance on decades as a law enforcement officer and trainer as well as the police reports and dash cam video make his testimony reliable.

In addition, the defendants argue that Dr. McCauley’s opinions will supplant the judge in charging the jury and that any references to “reasonableness” or “excessiveness” of the used force invades the province of the jury.  The court agrees with this argument and will limit this part of the testimony if it comes up.

The court also rules that Dr. McCauley will be allowed to testify about his knowledge, experience, and law enforcement background, proper police procedures and whether the defendants followed the correct procedures, and the prevaialing use of force standards.

Last, the court opines that if the defendants believe that Dr. McCauley has mistakenly identified the appropriate legal standard, his opinions are subject to cross examination.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude Dr. Paul McCauley from testifying in this case is denied.