A false-arrest and officer-negligence case against Agnes Scott College has finally been settled.
The settlement concludes the lawsuit brought by Amanda Hartley for her wrongful arrest due to the actions of the campus police officers employed by Agnes Scott College.
“We’ve worked alongside Amanda for years – this case originally went to trial in 2016,” attorney Lloyd Bell of Bell Law Firm said. “Historically, cases brought against police officers are dropped because of the immunity the courts give them. This is one of the first cases in which privately employed police officers were held accountable for negligence. Our State Supreme Court essentially just told Agnes Scott that they are responsible for the actions of their employees.”
Hartley was falsely accused of assault in 2009 by Haley Maxwell. Maxwell, who attended Agnes Scott College at the time, went to campus police officers to issue a report. Rather than follow proper protocol and thoroughly investigate the claims, Bell Law Firm says officers and Defendants Gregory Scott, Harry Hope and Gaetano Antinozzi accepted the allegations without a reasonable investigation of the claim.
Antinozzi went so far as to seek an arrest warrant against Hartley from across state lines, without questioning her first.
This case against Agnes Scott College opened the door to the possibility that, moving forward, Georgia private colleges and universities will be held accountable for the acts of their security force, just as they would for their other employees.
“Another reason this case is remarkable is if you look at other states where officers are afforded the same immunities as public officers, it’s because they’re held to the same oath and duties,” former attorney and former Police Chief of Emory University Ed Medlin said. “The private officers take the same oath of office and accept the same public duties to preserve order and safety. Georgia is unique in relieving campus police officers of those duties and oaths of office. So they shouldn’t be afforded the same immunities as public officers.”
Medlin believes the settlement will impact the community in three key ways. Campus police officers at private institutions will be aware, possibly for the first time, that they are essentially campus security officers entrusted with law enforcement powers, and not ‘peace’ officers, sworn officers or public officials subject to duties independent of those imposed by their employers.
Private colleges and universities will realize that skimping on the screening, training, compensation and supervision of their campus police officers could prove expensive.
Georgia law may allow a private college or university to instruct its campus police departments to apply different standards when dealing both with members of the campus community and ‘outsiders,’ but neither the rights of a member of the public, nor the interests of justice, can be ignored with impunity.
“This was a long-awaited win for Amanda,” Loyd said. “We’re excited to bring forward this clarification to the Georgia code that dictates police behavior. We fought for justice in the community and held negligent people accountable.”