Baltimore to leave its cops on the hook for civil suit payouts


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/02/12/baltimore-to-leave-its-cops-on.html


#2

But there’s a downside to this, as well: not all police officers have it in for the communities that they’ve sworn to protect. Many care as deeply for their fellow citizens as they do about coming home to their families at night. It could be difficult to attract or keep good cops to a city where they might have to think twice before using necessary force in the line of their duties, for fear of financial repercussions.

I agree that this could very well happen, but this is a reality in other industries. I work in the natural gas industry and everyone here is personally liable for acts of negligence, especially if said negligence ends in loss of life or severe property damage that could have been avoided. Affected people can bring a suit against the company but also against the particular individual. This generally motivates people in critical positions to take their role seriously and in the case of police officers i see what was reported as being along those lines. Don’t want to get sued? Always make sure that you’re taking every step to do your job properly, and if something were to ever happen you’ll be able to demonstrate that every precaution was taken. Double this up with dash cams and body cams and a good police officer should have proper evidence to back their asses.


#3

I predict an insurance product will be, if not already is, being developed for individual officers.


#4

“I talked to my agent, and he explained how he could lower my malpractice rates if I wore this bodycam, paid attention to my training, and behaved with professionalism.”


#5

It is also true that the average policeman doesn’t have the kind of money that is often awarded in civil suits. So victims are unlikely to collect and as a consequence are unlikely to be able to get a lawyer to pursue civil damages.


#6

maybe they should be required to carry insurance to cover it … like malpractice insurance.

and if they become too much of a risk … and can’t afford to be a police anymore … well that is the market figuring out it, innit ?


#7

Baltimore can barely keep up it’s roads and some of it’s schools do not have heating or air conditioning. The money can be spent better elsewhere. With the blatant and consistent stories that come out of the police it’s hard to feel sorry for them.


#8

(Note, I hope you don’t take this as anything against you, just something I saw in your comment triggered a thread of thought in my head.)

I don’t even see the idea that you can be sued as much of a motivator. Presumably you and virtually everyone you work with tries their best to avoid being negligent, especially where death may result, because they don’t want to cause havoc and kill people. There’s this weird idea that none of us will try to avoid killing one another unless we have a financial motivation to do so.

Having to pay damages when you make a serious mistake isn’t necessarily even there as a deterrent. None of us needs a deterrent to avoid being negligent with explosives. We get sued and others get awarded damages based on the principle that if you made a mess you have to clean it up.

It boggles my mind that we need to think of cops in terms of whether they are motivated enough to avoiding murdering people for no reason. I’ve been working my current job for nearly a decade. I haven’t shot a single person in the back while doing so. I don’t think a single person put a single second of thought into how to get me to avoid doing so.


#9

Perhaps an option for several years’ service as a butler or other domestic role might be offered as an alternative to monetary damages.

[kidding, just to be clear]


#10

LOL. I bet you get a lot of mileage out of that among friends. “Hey Grey_Devil, I need your professional opinion on something.” faarrrrrttt

But back to the topic - probably a step in the right direction? Since cities seem powerless or unwilling to control their police departments directly (probably partly due to the power of Police Unions), putting them on the hook for bad behavior should at the least save the city money, and give cops more direct consequences for their actions (where before there was often none).

Yeah, but who is going to want to re-insure a cop who already has one case against them? If something like this becomes a personal liability issue, I don’t see someone already nailed once for say excessive force being able to afford the raised rates - assuming they don’t just drop him. If insurance is mandatory, it effectively removes your ability to be a cop (like losing your license and you can’t be a pizza delivery driver.)


#11

You might think this is a good thing, but it’s not. I agree with the “hold the cops responsible” argument, but the cops are going to be judgment-proof in the face of a million-dollar damage award. They don’t have that kind of money, they’ll never have that kind of money, and the plaintiff will never be able to collect it.


#12

Okay, so you’re saying that, with insurance, we’re effectively at ‘1 murder free, but then you lose your job’? Not a great solution, but still a lot better than the current situation, where bad cops get multiple murders ‘free.’ I’m sure there’s a million flaws in switching to individual insurance, but it’s not like what we’re doing now is working so great.


#13

No potential offense taken, i welcome others thoughts on this.

I think the financial part of it isn’t precisely a deterrent, the concept or idea of a lawsuit being brought against you, personally, is usually enough of a boogeyman to cause people to really take their responsibilities seriously. Very rarely do things get to the point to where action like that is taken against a person, but i have heard of one or two from related industries in other areas.


#14

Police training is effectively: “Take control of every situation, and if you run into resistance of any kind, keep escalating. Kill them all if necessary.”

It’d be better to teach cops how to be guardians. Not warriors.


#15

I’m usually the first one to make the gas joke, or make a leading statement to set up such a joke for someone.


#16

That is a really pessimistic outlook. But yes, maybe “worst case” scenario?


#17

farrrtt “Oh sorry, didn’t mean to bring my work home with me!”

Ok ok, I’ll stop.


#18

IANAL, but isn’t it true that just because you can’t collect the whole million dollars, you can still collect as much as you can? Say, the first hundred thousand, or so?


#19

Yes, but do we expect a plaintiff who’s won a million bucks to collect a small garnishment of a cop’s check for the rest of the plaintiff’s life? It also implies the city, or the police department, has no role in disciplining bad officers.

Either situation is bad. If the city pays the money, it’s ultimately taxpayers who are on the hook, and because the city isn’t footing the bill, there’s no incentive to change anything. On the other hand, if the cops pay the money, the plaintiff is going to collect a fraction of what he or she is entitled to.


#20

These cases would normally name both the officer and the department. Hopefully both have to pay.