Question about an excessive force case
Case: MONTOYA v. SHELDON, No. CIV 10-0360 JB/WDS (D. New Mexico, October 31, 2012)
Background: Plaintiffs in an excessive force case against policeman defendants want to introduce evidence that the defendant policemen did not follow the police department’s operating procedures and policies in their use of force. The court holds that this evidence is irrelevant for establishing a Constitutional violation because departments might set their operating procedures to establish a standard more strict than what the Constitution requires. So far, so good. However, the court goes on to state that the defendant policemen can introduce evidence that they followed department policies and procedures.
Questions: Why is the evidence relevant if the defendant policemen want to introduce it? If a department can set its procedures to set a higher-than-Constitutional standard, then can’t the department just as easily set its procedures to define a lower-than-Constitutional standard, thus making the evidence irrelevant for reasons similar the reasons for its irrelevance when the section 1983 plaintiff attempts to introduce that same evidence? Why the asymmetry here?