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


#21

This is an outstanding development not only should cops be personally liable for jury awards but also any out of court damages and settlements

Police Union Officials and Police Chiefs as well should be subject to personal liabilities and be forced to payback to any city damages paid because of their racist and incompetent behaviours and actions while operating under the ‘color of the law ‘

BLM


#22

There’s also the good ol’ term “Gas Man”


#23

They do. But the point of the article is that Baltimore would make the cops solely liable for paying damages. Which means the plaintiff collects a fraction of the damages.

Another commenter suggested some kind of insurance. That could work; it’s what insurance is for.


#24

Don’t forget, there’s a reason Baltimore is doing this now. They have a metric shittonne of lawsuits on the way, thanks to their Guns Task Force.

Frankly, the Baltimore taxpayers have paid quite enough for these guys… and not just in money.


#25

Related, i recall hearing about this when it was initially reported 2 years ago. The former Marine was the first officer to respond on the scene with someone with an unloaded gun, was very distressed and looking for “suicide by cop”. He determined he could de-escalate the situation when 2 other officers arrived and shot the civilian on sight. Later the officer that refused to kill the civilian was terminated for not killing the guy (for reals). He sued and won


#26

I don’t think this is quite right. I think the point is that they will end the practice of absolving the individual officers of liability. So if a judge says an officer made a million dollar mistake by killing someone and the department made a million dollar mistake by training their officer to kill people, then the current practice is that the city pays $2M. The new proposed practice would be that the city pays $1M and the officer is on the hook for the other $1M. Obviously that would probably mean the plaintiff gets less, but not nothing.

The city can stop paying to cover the officer, but it can’t push it’s own burden off to the officer.

Actually that makes me think of another possible consequence of this system. Under the current system if you get sued your best interest is to close ranks and argue there was no fault; minimize the damages the city pays. Under the new system, there’s an alternate strategy: instead of trying to say there was no fault, you try to argue that he fault was a co-defendant’s rather than your own. So an officer who was accused of wrongful death might bring in training materials to show that they were trained to shoot people to say, “See, it’s not my fault, it’s the police department’s fault for training me to behave this way!”

Something like that happened relatively recently in my city when an officer was being criminally charged for a death. Pitting officers against their departments might be interesting to see.


#27

I could be. Then again, there are all those police forces around the world that manage to do the job without killing people willy nilly.
Are those police better police than what we have or is it possible that good cops wont have to worry about any of this because they aren’t jack booted thugs looking for an excuse to hurt someone?
Besides, the only time cops in this country get found guilty is when the act was so horrible, so unconscionable, so indefensible, that the case cannot be dismissed and hand waved away.

to wit https://boingboing.net/2018/02/12/baltimore-cops-so-corrupt-two.html


#28

That’s quite the broad brush you use there. This is our city police Chief Saunders


#29

Mandatory malpractice insurance per officer, period. In this area, false positive are far preferable to “do whatever you want, the state pays for it” system we have.


#30

That’s true, but cops are sort of in a separate category from most workers - they interact with the public in a way that often involves physical force (just in arresting someone) and lifetime consequences for others, even if they’re doing their jobs in a 100% ideal manner. This being a litigious society, where even “Good Samaritan” activities like pulling someone from a wreck can spawn a lawsuit, many day-to-day activities could be lawsuit fodder. Medical professionals, because of the nature of the work, are similar targets and have to have a whole system to protect them in place or they simply wouldn’t be able to work in the field.
The key part would seem to be if the police force pays for the court case. Since cops have to be pretty damn guilty for juries to find against them, it seems like a guilty verdict becomes the ideal separation point where cities let them face the consequences. Good cops (and, unfortunately, plenty of bad ones) could feel secure doing their jobs, because they won’t be held liable when following correct procedure, even if there’s a bad outcome.

It potentially provides an interesting level of granularity in liability, too. The current system, even if cops were held liable, only comes into play very rarely, in the most egregious cases, and guilty cops mostly get away with it. Even when that results in being fired, it’s trivially easy for them to find another law enforcement job in a nearby force. But if their own behavior is being tracked - as opposed to just being an issue as the result of a court case - and it follows them around from job to job, that actually makes them accountable in ways that don’t currently exist.

Yeah, exactly - and that’s precisely what’s needed.

Insurance companies like to reduce their risk - which likely means tracking things like disciplinary data on officers (before they’ve done something to merit a lawsuit). That kind of information generally can provide a good indicator of a cop who might kill someone. So ideally insurance companies could make it impossible to continue being a cop before they kill someone because they’ve got an unusual number of complaints made against them, have demonstrated sloppiness with procedure, etc.
But even in less-than-ideal situations, just being unable to be a cop because they killed someone is a step up from the situation we’ve got now, as you say.


#31

I haven’t checked other news sources (yet), but I didn’t see anything in the BB post that prohibited civil suits against the city also. In fact, I don’t see how a filing party could be prohibited from naming both cops and city in a suit.


#32

The police union can be named in the civil suit and the damages award paid out of their (no doubt substantial) funds. After all, they charge their membership dues every year. Law societies in Canadian provinces provide this type of payment for all lawyers licenced to work in the province. There’s no reason the police union can’t do the same. This would make them partially responsible for the level of training, professionalism and behavior of their membership.


#33

I don’t understand American law super well, but it’s hard for me to believe that they aren’t protected by laws that allow them to do a lot of things that ordinary people couldn’t. There’s no reason to think this change will increase the number of lawsuits against police officers, it may even decrease them because if the cop is at fault and not the department it might not make sense to sue if the cop doesn’t have the means to pay.

I agree, though, that you’d want police to have options to get a legal defense free of charge so that cops who haven’t done anything wrong don’t have to fear frivolous lawsuits. (Then again, I’d like that for everybody)


#34

Cities should punish cops that violate the law and engage in Negrophobia policing

Citizens should indict cops in their lawsuits against racist policing

Police Unions should be forced to insert codes of conduct and incentives into their contracts with cities including provisions that sanction rogue cops and claw back pensions from rogue and killer cops

BLM


#35

They are, of course. But that has very little to do with being targeted by lawsuits (except that it makes them less likely than they’d otherwise be), just that it makes it very hard to win one against a police officer.

Yeah, absolutely. But still - cops are more likely to be targets of lawsuits than the average worker, so it’s going to be something they’re thinking about, even if the lawsuits are rare and unlikely to succeed. (Though I could see wealthy people filing more lawsuits as purely punitive measures against specific police officers who arrested them, especially if cops were on the hook for the legal fees…)


#36

A person can’t act against their own self-interest? Over on the Oneita Jackson thread, she has plenty of examples. Racism is something that a culture is steeped in and which is largely unconscious, he’s not allowing the abuses because “fuck black people”, he’s allowing them because society allows it. A black police chief orders his officers to be “tough on crime”, Ben Carson dismantling the organization charged with enforcing the Fair Housing Act, Samuel L Jackson in Django Unchained.

If anything I would say that the pressure is probably greater. What will the people say if the police chief isn’t cracking down? “Oh, he’s just letting those people get away with things they shouldn’t,” because they know the police chief and he’s not like them, he’s made something of himself. But what happens if he starts pushing back? How does that change how he’s perceived? He may be in, but he may see it as a precarious in, something that has to be carefully maintained.


#37

You better watch your step McNulty!


#38

Baltimore is an extreme example, but all over North America – including Canada – there are police forces where the bad officers get away with terrible shit, and all the incentives in the system encourage the “good” cops to either close ranks or simply fail to drive out the bad ones. The bad ones, in a sense, hold all the rest hostage and perpetuate a deeply ugly culture. Arguably, that turns every cop into a “bad” cop. Paying damages out of the general public purse is one of those incentives. Maybe not the biggest or the only, but one that if removed could cause that ugly culture to crumble.

A lot of people have pointed out that personal liability is not a complete solution because individual cops don’t have the kind of money it takes to pay plaintiffs’ judgments. Many have mentioned insurance. That’s one solution, and it should help drive out the bad cops.

But what about police pension funds as a source of settlement funds? Give every cop skin in the game. Make it utterly unacceptable among cops to be a trigger-happy (or fists-and-baton-happy) psycho. Watch brutality and needless killings dry up. No?


#39
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.

#notallcops aside, this is a misunderstanding of how police abuse works. It’s not solved by firing “bad cops” and replacing them with “good cops”. Abuse is done by individuals, yes, but it’s empowered, sheltered, and incentivized by the police institution - it could not exist without systemic support. This means that all cops, even the ones who “care deeply for their fellow citizens”, are complicit in the abuse.

Rather than trying to lionize “good cops” so that they can somehow fix policing by being good guys, we should be asserting power over the police institution in general. If cops are unwilling to allow their power to be eroded by the communities they claim to protect, then they should never have had that power in the first place.


#40

I’m Canadian Aborginal, you Americans seemed to be steeped in the racist theme. Doesn’t matter who gets promoted or what is done to smooth the way to the future… there is always the past to blur the progression.

And its not just racism in the U.S. its every thing. Americans just like to tear each other down on what ever platform and say its not good enough.

Fortunately in Canada, we try to make a difference as we fail along the way to appease the nay’sayers.