(TMU) – As protests churn on across the country and the national debate continues police brutality and abuse continues, many are pushing for transformative change in the natire of law enforcement on all levels.
Proposed changes over the years have range from local community control to federal oversight, defunding the outright dissolving police forces.
But state lawmakers in New York are proposing a revolutionary new bill that would prevent police officers from brutalizing civilians by hitting them where it hurts – right in the wallet.
State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx) has introduced a bill that would hold all officers across the state personally liable for their actions while on duty by requiring them to obtain insurance policies that would cover civil lawsuits filed against them in case they are taken to court for excessive force or other abuses, reports New York Law Journal.
Biaggi hopes that the bill would create a firm disincentive for police misconduct and end the impunity that officers enjoy in favor of real financial accountability.
Under present law, officers who face lawsuits enjoy representation by local law departments while taxpayers must foot the bill in case of any verdict or settlement.
Biaggi’s proposal would require that cops get liability insurance that would cover any claims for acts “during any period of time that such officer is performing duties within the scope of employment.” However, the city or other local government would still cover the basic insurance policy to cover tort litigation costs.
According to a report from the New York City Comptroller’s Office, NYPD tort claim settlements amounted to a whopping $230 million in Fiscal Year 2018 for 6,472 cases of alleged misconduct or alleged wrongdoing, reports New York Post.
“While taxpayers bail out law enforcement who engage in misconduct, those same officers too often evade meaningful accountability,” Biaggi said.
The idea of requiring cops to carry their own liability insurance to discourage misconduct is hardly new, the senator noted.
Personal liability insurance isn't a novel idea. Nurses and hairdressers carry personal liability insurance too.https://t.co/ISetoGXsMf
— Alessandra Biaggi (@SenatorBiaggi) July 13, 2020
“Officers who have misconduct claims brought against them may see their premium go up and will be required to pay those costs,” Biaggi noted. “The purpose of this bill is to establish a financial disincentive for police misconduct and create accountability for abhorrent behavior.”
Another bill supported by New York lawmakers earlier this month would see officers lose their state pension and retirement benefits if they are fired for “serious” acts of misconduct.
“We are at a pivotal moment for anti-racist and police reform, and it is clear that law enforcement officers must face greater accountability,” said Senator Luis Sepulveda (D-Bronx). “Taxpayer dollars should not be funding public benefits for state employees who commit heinous or illegal actions.”
The push for mandatory police liability insurance for officers has been popular among various police accountability advocates, with everyone from leftists to libertarians supporting the demand as a common-sense way to prevent individual officers from abusing their authority while fleecing taxpayers in the process.
“If you were were a reckless driver, if you engaged in multiple instances of drunk driving or hitting civilians or motor vehicle homicides, your premiums would go sky high,” law professor Deborah Ramirez of Northeastern University told NPR last month. “And you would be priced out of driving. Similarly, officers who engage in reckless or dangerous behavior can be priced out of policing by high premiums that reflect the actual risk that they pose to us.”
The liability insurance approach would also act as a sort of early-warning system, she added.
“[W]e need some independent risk assessment here. Because they are public officers, because they do carry a badge and a gun, they should be subject to some risk assessment score card,” Ramirez explained. “And if the police won’t create it – because it’s very hard for the police to police themselves – then insurance companies can, and they do that in a number of contexts.”
Hairdressers, nurses, doctors, and lawyers are among some of occupations where personal liability insurance is required.
However, the idea of mandatory insurance for individual officers has been blocked in many of the places where it has been proposed – including in Minneapolis, whose murder at the hands of police on May 25 kicked off the recent weeks of protest and unrest. For Ramirez, the fault lies with the cop unions that have shielded officers from any form of accountability.
“It hasn’t become a reality because we have very politically powerful unions for whom this is something they care about a lot,” Ramirez said. “They want to be totally immunized from any responsibility – financial or job responsibility – for dangerous, reckless policing … But the moment is different now. The political calculus has changed.
“This is a moment when real reform can take place.”