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Proposals to require police officers to carry professional liability insurance were revived in Minneapolis this week, four years after a similar measure was kept off the ballot.
The move follows the death George Floyd, an African American whose death in Minneapolis police custody late last month was sparked nationwide anti-racism protests and calls for curbs of police power.
Currently, Minneapolis is self-insured for general liability and other exposures, a spokesman said in an email.
“Our self-insurance fund runs much like a private insurance fund, but without any profits built into the model,” the spokesman said.
He said the city contracts with a third-party actuarial firm annually to determine appropriate premium charges. The May 28 cash balance in the self-insurance fund was approximately $96 million.
On Monday, however, a Minneapolis-based group, the Communities United Against Police Brutality, proposed an insurance measure that would require private professional liability insurance coverage for the city’s police officers.
In a report endorsed by organizations including Black Lives Matter Twin Cities Metro, the group suggests that the requirement could be structured to discourage the use of unnecessary force by police.
“Under our proposal, the city could choose to pay the base rate for the coverage but would not be permitted to pay for any additional premiums charged officers due to their history.
“This plan incentivizes officers not to engage in conduct that would raise their insurance rates and creates a consequence if they do. Some of the worst offenders – likely including ex-Officer Derek Chauvin – would become uninsurable and then would no longer be able to work as police officers,” said the report, referring to the police officer who faces murder charges over Mr. Floyd’s death.
The recommendation also calls for banning indemnification of police officers for misconduct engaged in during their personal time. According to the report, the city paid $75,000 for the private attorney of an off-duty Minneapolis police officer who beat up a man after becoming intoxicated at a bar and used his position as police officer to get other officers to arrest the man. The request was approved by the city council on Dec. 8, 2017, according to city records.
The insurance recommendation this week follows a similar measure that was proposed previously.
In July, 2016, a now-defunct community group, the Committee for Professional Policing, submitted a petition to the Minneapolis City Council for a proposed amendment to the city charter to be placed on the November 2016 general election, according to a subsequent ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court in Hennepin county, David Bicking, et al. v. City of Minneapolis.
The proposal would have required police officers to carry professional liability insurance as their “primary” insurance and include coverage for “willful or malicious acts and acts outside the scope of the officer’s employment by the city.”
The council rejected the proposed amendment following the city attorney’s advice that it was “preempted by state law and conflicts with state public policy.”
A state court affirmed the decision, and the Supreme Court affirmed the order and the district court’s judgment in August 2016, before issuing its formal ruling in the case in March 2017.
Meanwhile, a majority of the council said they plan to dismantle the police department, although specific plans have not been released. Jacob Frey, the city’s mayor has indicated he is unwilling to support defunding the police department, according to news reports.
Among other concepts proposed to reduce liability associated with the police, some experts say police departments’ increasing use of body cameras to document their encounters with the public will ultimately reduce public entities’ potential liability, although it is still too early to find hard evidence of this.