- Does the Minneapolis Police Insurance Amendment comply with state and federal laws?
- Will this assist survivors of police brutality and the attorneys who represent them?
- Will this benefit officers who don’t engage in misconduct?
- Will this prevent city officials from continuing to let rogue officers "off the hook?"
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s a simple concept, really—rogue officers who engage in misconduct will have to pay for the additional premiums out-of-pocket. Some will eventually become uninsurable. We consulted with many stakeholders as we developed the wording for the Minneapolis Police Insurance Amendment. Throughout the process, as we worked with insurance professionals, attorneys and survivors of police misconduct, we ensured that certain conditions were satisfied:
Currently, the Minneapolis Police Department rewards brutal and irresponsible police officers by refusing to discipline them and, sometimes, actually promoting them to get them off the streets. In leadership positions, these rogue officers receive better pay and more strongly influence policing culture within the department. Some make a salary of over $100,000 a year. Misconduct is rewarded rather than addressed—and our communities have suffered from these bad policies for years.
The Police Federation has forced the city to reinstate officers that the Minneapolis Police Department has actually fired. For example, the department has attempted to fire Lt. Mike Sauro twice and he has been reinstated through the Police Federation grievance process both times.
Requiring officers to carry professional liability insurance would create an independent accountability mechanism independent from the power of police unions and any contracts they have or attempts to negotiate. If an officer is considered too risky to insure, by law they simply cannot continue to work as a police officer.
The wording of our amendment is below. The words in italics are our proposed changes.
We, the undersigned, petition the City of Minneapolis Charter Commission to implement/amend the City Charter to read as follows:
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.
The Minneapolis Charter Commission rules require that, to secure placement on the ballot, a group must collect enough signatures to total at least five percent of the total votes cast in Minneapolis in the last state general election. 137,362 votes were cast in the last general election, so 6,869 signatures from registered Minneapolis voters were required to be on the November 2016 ballot..
On Thursday, June 2nd, we turned in over 12,000 signatures to the city clerk's office—representing thousands of community members who believe Minneapolis voters should have a chance to create a professional, responsible, and insured police force on November 8th. Throughout the petitioning process, we validated each signature collected to the voter file of registered voters to ensure that we had collected the required amount.
Sadly, the Minneapolis city established illegally blocked our Police Insurance Amendment from the ballot, forcing us to turn our focus to supporting other campaigns across the country in starting their own campaigns.
Attorneys helped craft the amendment to ensure its legality. But Minneapolis city officials deprived voters of the right to decide the issue by claiming it wasn't legal. After a lengthy legal fight, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that our Police Insurance Amendment should not be on the Minneapolis ballot.
Under state law, the city is required to cover payouts resulting from lawsuits against police officers in cases where the harm is purely accidental and the police officer was acting within their role and duties. If the city is at fault due to illegal policies, poor training, or poor supervision, the city is also required to protect the officer from legal responsibility and to pay damages.
"Contrary to misleading statements disseminated by the Police Federation, the city is NOT required by any law to cover damages from lawsuits for police officers when the officer knowingly and intentionally violated the law or police policies."
In these situations, the police officers could be liable and the City is under no obligation to defend the officers or pay damages resulting from legal actions. To illustrate this point, Minneapolis has declined to cover Police Union President Bob Kroll because he was determined not to be acting within the scope of his employment in a brutality incident with another officer.
By definition, misconduct (intentional violation of law and/or policy) falls outside the scope of employment. There is no moral, legal or union contract obligation that the city continue to pay out millions of dollars a year in bailouts for rogue officers.
We pay for it. Some of us pay with our lives or health, but all of us pay with our hard-earned tax dollars. Yet rogue officers—even when they cost the city millions—rarely pay a dime! Taxpayers bail out the Minneapolis Police Department to the tune of $3 million on average each year.
The Police Insurance Amendment ensured that anyone who receives a judgment or settlement in a case resulting from police misconduct or harm from an officer would still receive those funds. However, the money would be paid by the officer's professional liability insurance rather than from the city's general fund.
The city of Minneapolis is self-insured. This means it literally budgets for police brutality and misconduct each year, using taxpayer money to write blank checks for rogue officers. The Police Insurance Amendment would have stopped these bailouts, saving taxpayers money and giving rogue officers a financial consequence for their misconduct—making our city safer.
Under the Minneapolis Police Insurance Amendment, the city could have chosen to cover the base rate of the professional liability insurance, but officers whose misconduct results in higher premiums would have paid additional premiums.
"Officers with a large number of complaints or with serious complaints would have eventually became uninsurable. This means they would have been removed from the police force, saving a lot of money for taxpayers and making our city safer from police violence and misconduct."
Base rates could be different depending on assignment. SWAT officers, regardless of personal history of misconduct or other factors are, for example, automatically in higher liability or higher risk situations than officers on desk duty. Again, the city could have chosen to cover this base rate. However, increases resulting from complaints, lawsuit judgments and settlements, procedural and internal policy violations would have been the responsibility of the officer. These additional premiums would have provided a meaningful consequence for officers who choose to use excessive force, racially profile, circumvent the law, or abridge people’s rights. For officers who are simply doing their jobs, premiums would have decreased over time.
For much of its existence, the Minneapolis Police Department has handled community member complaints through its Internal Affairs Unit (IAU). Although the IAU has a record of some firings, none have been the result of complaints from the public. Reporting misconduct to the IAU has been known to backfire on a complainant in the form of retaliation by police, a well-documented phenomenon.
Following a botched drug raid in 1989, led by Lt. Mike Sauro, the public demanded a civilian board to oversee the Minneapolis Police Department. An elderly black couple perished in a fire when police raided the wrong address. A riot nearly ensued, and it became clear that Minneapolis needed a civilian oversight board. This was the beginning of the Civilian Review Authority (CRA). Right from the start, the city deliberately hobbled the CRA by underfunding and understaffing it. In addition, it lacked subpoena power and could only recommend discipline, rather than issue it. Perhaps the most daunting problem was the refusal of the police chief to actually discipline complaints sustained by the CRA. This led to a very poor record of discipline and officers refused to change their behaviors because they faced no consequences for misconduct.
The CRA stumbled along and went through several overhauls when, in 2002, the US Department of Justice was called in to mediate the problem between Minneapolis residents and their police department. This effort was sabotaged by people in the city's leadership. Meanwhile, the CRA continued in a minimal way. It was widely regarded as inadequate and overseen solely by those with a clear bias toward insulating officers from accountability for their actions.
The city then shut down the CRA in 2012, replacing it with the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR), which is completely under the control of city employees and the police department and is even more ineffective than the CRA. Since its creation, the OPCR has processed over 1300 complaints and has not disciplined even one officer for misconduct as a result of a complaint filed by a community member—only those filed by other officers or through the IAU of the Minneapolis Police Department.
What insurance company would be willing to offer professional liability insurance for police officers?
Insurance companies are in the business of risk management. They deal with very complex matters in other large groups they provide insurance for. Doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, architects, engineers, beauticians, day care workers, nurse aides and others are required to carry professional liability insurance.
Providing professional liability insurance for officers is no different—we first must create a market for the insurance, just as one currently exists for many other professions. Insurance companies will quickly enter the market and compete heavily on price.
A growing number do. Nationwide, we are seeing an explosion in the amount of officers who voluntarily are purchasing liability insurance. That said, we have seen numerous misleading statements coming from police unions regarding the Police Insurance Amendment and our campaign. Union leaders are in the business of protecting bad officers, and this conflict of interest puts them at odds with rank-and-file officers.
According to a recent Washington Post article, 2015 "will go down in the record books as one of the safest for police officers in recorded history." Police often cite fear for their personal safety as a reason for deploying violent, even lethal, force against members of the public. To be sure, policing is not the safest job in America. But how dangerous is it in reality?
Through the years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has repeatedly shown that policing is a relatively safe profession. In 2012, the fatal injury rate for "police and sheriff's patrol officers," or the number of fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, was 15.0. However, that figure includes all causes of death. Of the 150 officer deaths reported in 2012, only 51 were attributed to "violence and other injuries by persons or animals." Nearly as many, 48, died in car accidents.
To put the "risk of the job" talk in perspective, here are some occupations with higher fatality rates than law enforcement:
- Logging workers: 129.9
- Fishers and related fishing workers: 120.8
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers: 54.3
- Roofers: 42.2
- Structural iron and steel workers: 37.0
- Refuse and recyclable materials collectors: 32.3
- Drivers/sales workers, truck drivers: 24.3
- Electrical power-line installers and repair: 23.9
- Farmers, ranchers, agricultural managers: 22.8
- Construction laborers: 17.5
- Taxi drivers and chauffeurs: 16.2
- Maintenance and repair workers, general: 15.2