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Multi-Agency Task Forces Manipulate Jurisdiction to Avoid Liability

According to King, without first identifying themselves as law enforcement, the two plainclothes officials threw King against their black unmarked SUV, began to ask questions, and then removed his wallet. Believing he was being mugged, King attempted to run but was tackled and beaten unconscious by the officers. Bystanders called the police as King yelled for help. Much of this was captured on video.

Officers arrested and charged him with resisting arrest and assaulting the officers.

King was hospitalized and spent the weekend in jail. He refused a plea deal and was acquitted in a jury trial in 2015. He had beaten the bogus charges, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. The fight had bankrupted his family. As for the actual fugitive, police apprehended him later.

King filed a lawsuit in 2016 alleging the two task force officers violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He said he has never received an apology from the officers.

Attorneys for the two officers claimed the Michigan court lacked jurisdiction as both officers were part of a multi-agency task force and neither the state nor federal governments would admit that the officers were operating under either’s jurisdiction.

King’s attorney, Patrick Jaicomo, found the case in jurisdictional purgatory despite the fact that there was no federal investigation or federal crime that initiated the incident.

Jaicomo has partnered with Institute of Justice advocates to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to force the police and the U.S. Department of Justice to stop playing jurisdictional games that effectively leave victims without any recourse when their rights are violated by members of these federal-state task forces. The government’s response was to instead ask the court to focus on expanding the protections for the officers provided by the legal defense of qualified immunity under a new interpretation of the Federal Tort Claims Act.

King argued that the U.S. Supreme Court should end the viability of legal arguments being created by jurisdictional shell games, thus allowing multi-agency task forces to be held liable for violating someone’s constitutional rights.

The argument also was made to reject the government’s new immunity theory. An Institute of Justice summary noted that, regardless of the government’s position, the officers would be entitled to qualified immunity only if they did not know that “stopping, searching, beating and arresting an innocent person violated the constitutions.” Something no honest officer could reasonably claim they didn’t know. King’s current legal battles have not yet been resolved.

Something that is clear is that the proliferation of these task forces has created numerous examples where contrived confusion over jurisdiction has been used in attempts to avoid liability. Similar jurisdictional entanglements have also been used to avoid task force activities being subjected to public records requests and used to bypass restrictions on civil asset forfeiture laws. It is becoming obvious that “task force” designations are being misused for the purpose of manipulating the law and providing protection for law enforcement misconduct. 

 

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