Should Minneapolis police officers carry their own insurance?

Members of the group Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) say ‘yes.’  The goal, members say, is to cut down on instances of police misconduct and reduce the amount of money the city of Minneapolis pays out for officer misconduct legal matters.  An MPR News analysis of data from the Minneapolis city attorney’s office show that since 2003, the city has paid out nearly $21 million in police misconduct settlements, judgments and claims.

I spoke with CUAPB member Dave Bicking last month after police chief Janee Harteau announced that the officer involved in the fatal collision with a motorcyclist on May 10 of this year would face no criminal charges or discipline from the incident.  Bicking handed me a flyer spelling out the case for self-insured cops.

“The city could pay the base rate of the insurance premiums, but officers would have to pay any increases in their premiums due to the their personal history. Too many claims or other evidence of risk would cost the officer extra, an effective form of discipline,” reads the flyer. “Consistently brutal cops would become uninsurable, and could therefore not continue on the Minneapolis police force.”

However, some say if police officers become more worried about getting in trouble than capturing bad guys, public safety could suffer.  In 2009 I spoke to attorney Gregg Corwin for a story on police misconduct lawsuits. Corwin often represents officers who get fired or harshly disciplined.

“There’s a joke among officers: ‘You never get fired for just sitting in your car,” said Corwin.

Corwin also said unlike most other city employees, police officers often have to come in physical contact with people who don’t want to be restrained.  Complaints and legal action are just part of the job.

Members of CUAPB are trying to collect 15,000 signatures to put the self-insurance question on the 2014 ballot.  They’re meeting tonight at the Churchill apartment building on Marquette Ave. downtown at 6 p.m. to discuss the petition drive.