By Pauline Thomas
Reports of police brutality have captured a lot of attention from the media in the past few years. For people of color living in Minneapolis, this is no surprise. The Star Tribune reported on August 28, 2013, that out of 439 complaints filed against Minneapolis police officers, not one officer has been disciplined.
To add insult to injury, the city uses our tax money for payouts in the event that an officer is successfully sued. This has amounted to $20 million of wasted taxpayer money in the past seven years alone.
These facts affirm what people in the community already know: the city and police department are not disciplining police officer misconduct, and are allowing these injustices to continue. To remedy this problem, community members in Minneapolis have developed a plan to make officers individually responsible for their conduct, and to remove problem officers from duty.
The Committee for Professional Policing (CfPP) is working on getting a charter amendment on the 2014 ballot that would require Minneapolis police officers to carry their own professional liability (malpractice) insurance. Right now, if a cop is sued and found liable for misconduct, the city currently pays for the judgment or settlement out of tax dollars. Officers don’t have any direct accountability for their actions and most of these officers are not fired or disciplined.
If officers carry their own liability insurance, each officer would be held directly accountable for acts of brutality. Just as bad drivers pay higher rates for car insurance, rogue cops would pay more for their insurance. Officers would think twice before brutalizing people in the community. Eventually, the bad cops would become uninsurable and wouldn’t be able to be on the Minneapolis police force.
The city would have the option to cover the base rate of the premiums so that honest officers would not be punished. Good behavior would be greatly rewarded, since officers with no complaints or convictions would be able to enjoy the protection of liability insurance with zero cost.
This amendment proposal is a win-win scenario for good officers, the city, and most importantly, the community. Liability insurance would mean adequate protection for victims of police brutality and provide a mechanism for removing problem officers from the force, a mechanism that is currently missing from the Minneapolis Police Department.
In order to get this amendment proposal on the 2014 ballot, CfPP must collect 10,000 signatures from registered Minneapolis voters. Their goal is 15,000 to ensure a safe placement on the ballot.
To get involved with this crucial campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 612-715-8784. You can learn more about this campaign and the Committee for Professional Policing at cfppmpls.wordpress.com.
Pauline Thomas is a member of the CfPP Advisory Board and a Minneapolis resident.