Weeding Out Bad Cops

by Ed Sawicki - May 31, 2020

Murder of George Floyd
Murder of George Floyd

What's to be done about police murders of unarmed black men and women? It doesn't seem like this problem will ever go away. In addition to this being wrong and unfair, it's costly to taxpayers. Many cities are paying out so much in settlements that it's impacting their ability to provide services to their citizens.

Here's a market-based solution. Require that all police officers carry liability insurance just as you do for driving your car. They can't work in law enforcement without it. If they murder someone, are sued, and a court awards damages, their insurance is either canceled or premiums increase. They can't escape this by moving to another city and continuing to terrorize the public.

The liability insurance in no way prevents officers from being charged with crimes, of course.

This can be achieved with a nationally-negotiated contract that keeps costs relatively low—a national bulk purchase of liability insurance. Insurance companies must compete for the business. It's a lucrative business because most cops are not bad and there would be far fewer bad cops and incidents of murder after this program was up and running for a few years.

Cities can reimburse officers for the cost of a basic policy - one where there are no court awards for claims against the officer. The officer pays anything over that amount out of their own pocket. Cities would likely pay far less than they are now for court awards to victims.

In the case of Eric Garner's murder by police in Staten Island, New York, Garner's widow settled for $5.9 million in 2015. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the family of Dontre Hamilton was paid a $2.3 million settlement. In September 2016, Sandra Bland's family settled their lawsuit with Encinia, Waller County, Texas for $1.9 million. On September 15, 2020, the city of Louisville, Kentucky settled with Breonna Taylor's family for $12 million. And there are many, many more.

It's not just murders by police that result in large settlements. In Chicago, Jacques Rivera was imprisoned for 21 years for a murder that he did not commit. NPR reported that, “Rivera is one of at least 20 who have been exonerated in cases where that detective, Reynaldo Guevera, led the investigations. Rivera was awarded $17 million.

These award amounts could pay for a lot of liability insurance.

Let the insurance companies weed out the bad cops since local governments, Congress, and a racist president can't seem to do it.

Other articles

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Sources

Wikipedia: Death of Eric Garner, Civil lawsuit

Wikipedia: Shooting of Dontre Hamilton

Wikipedia: Lists of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States

NPR: Police Settlements: How The Cost Of Misconduct Impacts Cities And Taxpayers

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