Insurance Companies: Unlikely Heroes Against Police Brutality

By Mike Tront

I’ve had this on my mind for a while, then the other day I stumbled onto this: Group Want Minneapolis Police to Carry Liability Insurance

A group called Committee for Professional Policing isn’t happy that taxpayers are picking up the tab. They believe that forcing cops to carry their own private insurance — the same way that doctors and plumbers do — would make bad cops think twice before beating down on civilians.

“It’s going to make Minneapolis a safer place to live because people are not going to have to interact with officers who aren’t held accountable to their actions, and they act knowing that,” says CfPP spokesman Cole Yates.

Under their proposal, the city would pay for the base rate of insurance, and the officer would have to pay for anything over the base rate if they are high risk.  This type of rule has many hurdles to jump through to get passed and you can believe there will be a union fight.  However, just 15 years ago we’d never imagine a world with legalized marijuana.  But today we’re about to have marijuana legalized in some manner in most states.

Currently, cities and municipalities have insurance to cover them in many lawsuits that involve police misconduct.  For a while I thought that growing lawsuits would force these cities to change how they hire and fire officers.  This seems much less likely to happen though.  After all, even if insurance companies raise their premiums for lawsuit protection from police misconduct, all that happens is that the extra cost falls on the taxpayers.  No one in the government or police department individually is paying.  So nothing changes.  We need the actual officers to be on the hook for their own misconduct for things to change in a major way.

So would this stop or reduce police abuse?  I think so.  Most police officers are regular people like you and I who are just doing a job.  They have no desire to get in a physical altercation with an unarmed, nonviolent person.  But like any job, there are always going to be a few bad apples.  In fact, according to this Chicago Tribune article:  Small Group of Chicago Police Cost City Millions in Settlements

Both are part of a small group of officers — just 124 of the city’s police force of roughly 12,000 — who were identified in nearly a third of the misconduct lawsuits settled since 2009, suggesting that officers who engaged in questionable behavior did it over and over. The Tribune’s investigation also found that 82 percent of the department’s officers were not named in any settlements. Still, the conduct of those 124 officers cost the city $34 million, the Tribune investigation found.

Sure, bad cops are bad cops and they will do harm regardless of any of this.  Just like actual criminals, they’re not thinking of the consequences of their actions.  But, when any indication pops up that someone might be a lawsuit risk, his insurance premium will pop up too!  Very quickly he will lose his insurance and be unable to continue being a police officer.

With so much at stake, I imagine insurance companies would take steps to prevent the hiring of high risk people in the first place.  Much like auto insurance companies check into your past before insuring you, I can see where an officer might get to the point of being hired by a police department but get rejected by the insurance company for having indications of being high risk.

In a perfect world, the officers responsible for abuse would simply be fired and/or thrown in jail.  But since the state has a monopoly, the entire system is on the same team.  Prosecutors, judges, unions, and legislators have a notoriously hard time getting rid of or punishing even the most abusive of officers.  In the face of all of life’s problems, the free market always finds a way though.  For this problem caused by government monopoly and apathy for our safety, the free market is fighting back with insurance companies!



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