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Civil Rights

New York Lawmaker Wants Police Officers to have Personal Liability Policies

— July 8, 2020

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi says tying officers’ misconduct to insurance premiums could disincentive them from using excessive force.

A New York lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require police officers in the state to purchase personal liability policies. Such policies would cover law enforcement in the event they are sued for misconduct, including claims of excessive force and in-custody abuse.

The bill, writes The Hill, was introduced by state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi. And Biaggi’s proposal, as it stands, poses a drastic challenge to how individual members of law enforcement may be held accountable for misconduct.

In New York City, for instance, officers accused of wrongdoing may be sued—but they often do not pay for their own counsel, and neither are they punished when a judge or jury orders financial penalties. That’s because, currently, police officers who are sued for any reason are defended by the city’s Law Department, whose attorneys are, in turn, funded by taxpayer dollars.

Similarly, whenever members of law enforcement are found liable for a claim, settlements are paid with more public funds funds.

“While taxpayers bailout law enforcement who engage in misconduct, those same officers too often evade meaningful accountability,” Sen. Biaggi told The New Yrok Post.

Biaggi’s proposal is designed to make officers more aware of what they’re doing by giving them a financial disincentive to avoid causing civilians unnecessary harm.

Image via ASSY/Pixabay. (CCA-BY-0.0)

“Officers who have misconduct claims brought against them may see their premium go up and will be required to pay those costs,” she said. “The purpose of this bill is establish a financial disincentive for police misconduct and create accountability for abhorrent behavior.”

The New York Post notes that misconduct lawsuits have cost the state and local governments vast sums of money. Between July 2017 and June 2018, New York City alone paid closet to $230 million to settle an estimated 6,472 cases of alleged misconduct or wrongdoing.

According to the Post, Biaggi’s proposed bill is one of several measures advanced in New York to counter and curb police brutality. Last month, the state legislature passed a number of laws designed to prevent officers from using excessive force.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed a number of such proposals into law, including the repeal of a “controversial police records secrecy rule known as ’50-a’ that sealed off access to disciplinary records.” The legislature has also banned the use of chokeholds by police officers.

Perhaps the most drastic proposal still pending, aside from Biaggi’s, would strip police officers of their pensions if and when they’re found guilty of misconduct.

“Law enforcement officers take an oath to protect and serve. They are supposed to be our trusted partners. However, when that trust is broken, there must be consequences,” said New York Assemblywoman Diana Richardson (D-Bronx). “What this bill does is add a level of accountability by terminating the retirement benefits of law enforcement officers who take it upon themselves to act outside of their training and the law.”


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