Minneapolis - In almost every city across the US, tax dollars are used to cover the damages and settlements from lawsuits filed against their police departments due to officer misconduct. Taxpayers in essence pay out massive amounts in damages for officers not doing their job properly. Additionally, the cost is compounded because taxpayers are forced to continue paying the salaries of these criminal cops.
City officials don’t have the guts to hold officers accountable for their actions. So a new approach is necessary to hold rogue officers responsible for their conduct.
Just like doctors have to carry malpractice insurance, police officers should be required to carry professional liability insurance as a condition of employment.
How this can be achieved is through an amendment to the city charter itself.
Over the past seven years, taxpayers in Minneapolis have paid out over $20 million dollars to settle cases stemming from police brutality. In just 2011, $4.7 million taxpayer dollars went to cover the costs of officer misconduct. Many other cities across the US have faced similar losses with seemingly no recourse.
Some cities, such as Minneapolis, self indemnify for police claims, while others rely on the League of Cities coverage. Most large metropolitan areas don’t engage in effective risk management strategies, as it would be a political liability due to the strength of the police lobby and unions. Thus, police are rarely held accountable for their actions.
Requiring police officers in large cities to carry professional liability insurance coverage would be an excellent risk management strategy and provide accountability for officers in ways that city administrations cannot or will not provide.
Similarly to how other professionals, such as doctors who are sued too many times become uninsurable, the demands of professional liability insurance will ensure risk reduction takes place. Meaning basically that if city officials won’t hold police accountable for their actions an insurance company on the hook for large police misconduct payouts certainly will.
Problem officers would find their rates up until eventually they would become uninsurable, a wonderful way to have problem officers forced out of policing entirely.
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To avoid running into problems with union contracts, the strategy would allow cities to fund the base rate of the coverage, and officers funding any additional costs that would be associated with their claims history.
In most cities, and Minneapolis in particular, it has been found that a handful of officers are responsible for the majority of complaints and lawsuits regarding police brutality.
In 1994, City Pages published a story on police brutality within the Minneapolis Police Department, identifying a dozen cops whose histories of doling out beatings over the previous decade had cost the department $5.8 million in settlement payouts and court costs.
If officers were to carry their own professional liability insurance, insurance rates would increase for each misconduct case brought against an officer. That handful of officers who continue to abuse their power in uniform would be forced out, as their insurance rates would become too costly for them to remain in the department or they became uninsurable. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, general contractors and many others are required to pay for professional liability insurance-- why not police officers?
If accountability and reduction in police abuses are to be achieved, clearly a new approach is needed. Requiring police officers in large cities to carry their own professional liability insurance and to pay for costs over the base rate is one step towards reaching these goals.
Here is the proposal to amend the Minneapolis City Charter that can be used as a template in your local municipality:
Section 7.3(a)(2) Police Officers. Each peace officer appointed in the police department must be licensed as required by law. Each such licensed officer may exercise any lawful power that a peace officer enjoys at common law or by general or special law, and may execute a warrant anywhere in the county. Each appointed police officer must provide proof of professional liability insurance coverage in the amount consistent with current limits under the statutory immunity provision of state law and must maintain continuous coverage throughout the course of employment as a police officer with the city. Such insurance must be the primary insurance for the officer and must include coverage for willful or malicious acts and acts outside the scope of the officer’s employment by the city. If the City Council desires, the city may reimburse officers for the base rate of this coverage but officers must be responsible for any additional costs due to personal or claims history. The city may not indemnify police officers against liability in any amount greater than required by State Statute unless the officer’s insurance is exhausted. This amendment shall take effect one year after passage.
Together we can force police accountability. For more information about the movement under way in Minneapolis or to find out how to perhaps implement these changes in your city, call Communities United Against Police Brutality at 612-874-7867.
Here is a link to donate to the GoFundMe campaign, taking place in Minneapolis, to assist in funding the campaign to amend the Minneapolis City Charter.
Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay's work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis and on Facebook at Sir Metropolis.