Since the summer of 2020 there has been a number of proposed reforms for Law Enforcement. Colorado is leading the charge and starting July 1, 2023 Colorado Peace Officers may have to pay up to $25,000 in monetary damages awarded to a plaintiff. So in essence, you are named in a lawsuit, the civil court finds for the plaintiff or your agency just caves and says we will pay plaintiff to go away, the Peace Officer(s) involved in the suit may have to pay up to $25k each as part of the judgement award.
While you may not be a Peace Officer in Colorado, I strongly recommend you take a moment to read what is happening there. This is the beginning of a nationwide change.
Where does a Peace Officer find liability coverage? How much will it cost? What are the media and politicians talking about? How does the Colorado law trigger this?
On June 19, 2020 Governor Polis of Colorado signed into law SB20-217 Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity which goes into effect on July 1, 2023. Within the bill is this language: The bill requires a political subdivision of the state to indemnify its employees for such a claim; except that if the peace officer’s employer determines the officer did not act upon a good faith and reasonable belief that the action was lawful, then the peace officer is personally liable for 5 percent of the judgment or $25,000, whichever is less, unless the judgment is uncollectible from the officer, then the officer’s employer satisfies the whole judgment.
Colorado’s bill is the start of a nationwide overhaul to subject a Peace Officer to financial liability. Other states have started similar conversations and I anticipate we will see similar legislation signed into law over the next months.
So how much will Peace Officer liability insurance cost per year? How much will I need? Good questions.
Best analogy is Peace Officer Liability will be like buying auto insurance. With auto insurance, the more you crash the more expensive it will become. How and where you drive influences the price. Your years of driving experience.
Please remember Peace Officer Liability Insurance is a brand new concept. A number of different risk factors will likely tie into pricing and here are a few that I could foresee:
- State of issue
- Body camera required by policy to document interactions
- Coverage per incident and cumulative coverage
- Past IA complaints and outcome (yes they may need access to your IA file)
- Perhaps agency or the geographical area you work
- Training and Experience (Trainee vs Advanced Master Police Officer certification)
Pushing a portion of the liability onto the Peace Officer is something really new. For our careers we had the qualified immunity doctrine that fell onto the courts to decide. Now it’s up to an agency to determine your culpability. While there are lots of options for Doctors’ malpractice insurance or even the business errors and omissions insurance I carry, personal liability for a Peace Officer is a new world with limited options.
Do you think your agency wants to foot the bill for the $25,000 if your portion is uncollectible?
You have to show proof of a valid drivers license to be employed. Perhaps you will have to show proof of a personal liability insurance policy to check on for service. A personal liability policy naming the employer as an “additional insured” with certain amounts of coverage you must carry so they are not on the hook for the $25k. This will be another page to add to the policy and procedures manual. With the current world this doesn’t seem that far fetched.
In the short term we have found a partner who can offer Peace Officers personal liability insurance.
Questions. Concerns. Want to vent. Need more information – please give me a call – 530-322-5400
Stay Safe out there~