In the USA, police have a high degree of immunity for their actions in the line of duty. It is nearly impossible to sue an individual officer due to qualified immunity, and one can't sue a precinct for an officer's misdeeds, unless you can prove an illegal policy or similar caused the officer's behaviors, due to Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York. Police unions have further expanded the officers' rights and even made it difficult to fire an officer that is engaging in questionable behaviors or gross misconduct. There are a number of lesser factors I won't go into as well, but the net result is that in the USA a police officer has relatively little accountability while working, they can effectively, some may even argue literally, get away with murder.

I'm wondering how the degree of protection for police officers in the USA compares to other countries. Do other countries provide the same degree of protection to police against potential misdeeds that the USA does? If not, how does it vary from the USA's handling of police officers?


To address the valid criticism that there are a lot of countries with widely varying policies, I'm mostly interested in countries relatively similar to the USA that would thus have similar desires and difficulty with policing in general. By that I mean developed nations with democratic governments that are not generally considered excessively authoritarian.

I realize that still leaves a large number of countries, but I don't want to narrow this question too far by naming only one country. I would be happy to hear answers about any country that meets the above criteria. The ideal answer would be one that linked to a study that actually compared policing policies across numerous countries, but since that's likely unrealistic to expect I'd settle for comparisons between specific countries.

  • 9
    There are ~200 other countries in the world which differ a lot by what the police can and can not do. There are totalitarian regimes where the police are supposed to be ruthless, so lack of accountability is by design. And there are failed states where police have de-facto immunity not due to "official" legal protection but due to corruption. Perhaps it would make sense to narrow this question down to countries which are comparable to the United States regarding their commitment to the rule of law.
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 18:40
  • 6
    Wonder if it makes sense to separate immunity from gravity of police actions in this question. The US news on this subject is dominated by news of wrongful killings. Few of the US's peers have anywhere near the level of lethal force applied by police. But France's push to prohibit the filming of police is nevertheless a rather chilling way to shield them from facing consequences, even if it mostly concerns actions without lethal outcomes (and even if motivated by real threats to police personnel). Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 18:58
  • 1
    It's incorrect to claim police in the USA have "relatively little accountability while working". There is plenty of accountability, it just isn't of the civil litigation nature. They can be fired just as any of us would be... ie. the employer holds them accountable for their actions. And they can be held criminally accountable. Just because a citizen cant sue doesn't mean there isn't any accountability. Also keep in mind that what you see on the news isn't the full story. Only the jury gets all of the details so just because the news claims they are guilty, that's not always the case.
    – mikem
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 6:25
  • 2
    @mikem It's actually quite hard to fire police officers in many US jurisdictions. Due to the police union pushing for a number of policies to protect union members it's become very difficult to fire officers and some precincts aren't willing to go through the effort. As far a criminal accountability Qualified Immunity protects them, if a 'reasonable' officer could believe their actions made sense they can't be charged even if they break a law, and even if their motive can be proven to be invalid it doesn't mater so long as a valid motive for a theoretical officer can be suggested.
    – dsollen
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 15:59
  • 2
    @mikem As to criminal charges, when is the last time an officer was actually found guilty for a crime? it's very rare to even prosecute them, especially since there is almost no penalty for officers lying in their reports to protect themselves from criminal charges and many do so when they realize they have done something questionable so trials only happen when someone has video evidence of the crime. There have been numerous high profile wrongful death cases against officers, and I'm not aware of one where the officer was found guilty. Criminal charges just don't seem a threat either.
    – dsollen
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 16:05

2 Answers 2


To answer your question, one would have to look at formal and informal legal immunity. That is, is it legally possible for a citizen to sue/charge a police officer, and is it practically possible?

Another issue is the difference between a civil lawsuit, filed by a citizen, and a criminal charge filed by the prosecutor after credible complaints by a citizen.

To give two widely diverging examples:

  • In North Korea the legal system routinely violates constitutional protections which should exist on paper.
  • In Germany, generally the state is responsible for any civil damages done by officials, with some exceptions for intentional or grossly negligent actions. So the citizen must sue the state, not the officer. Any punishment of the officer would have to come after investigations by the prosecution and police. Some observers believe that those investigations are not impartial.

Personally I believe that the German police is mostly accountable to the public, and that the North Korean police is not, yet getting an individual officer held accountable can be difficult in both systems.

  • 8
    @MoziburUllah, the OP wanted to know how others do. I've given two examples where police officers are not commonly prosecuted for alleged excesses, one a democracy and one a dictatorship.
    – o.m.
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 5:12
  • If you wanted to refine the question in order to answer it. Then that would be fine. As it stands, it's incomplete. Hence the downvote. Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 5:41
  • 8
    @MoziburUllah, before the edit the question was "Do other countries provide the same degree of protection to police against potential misdeeds that the USA does? If not, how does it vary from the USA's handling of police officers?" I think I answered that, if you don't there is nothing to do about it ...
    – o.m.
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 6:06

I will just give the example about Denmark. There has been a fair amount of trials about police brutality. Not anything comparable to the examples from the US but resulting in big bruises and broken bones.

A police officer has never lost any of those cases. Not a single case.

  • 1
    Though, I'll say that the fact that they even get charged with a crime and have a trial is quite a bit more accountability than police in the US face.
    – divibisan
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 18:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .