In an ideal world, officers who repeatedly commit misconduct would lose their jobs and never work in law enforcement again. That doesn’t always happen.
What if there were a way to use market forces to make it happen more often?
What if police officers were required to carry liability insurance? It would pay victims of misconduct up to a certain policy limit. If a certain officer became too expensive to insure due to repeated incidents, that officer wouldn’t be able to get insurance and therefore wouldn’t be able to work anymore.
It might be a way to weed out bad cops.
There is currently a bill in Texas that would require all police officers to continuously maintain liability insurance as a condition of their employment. The insurance would cover incidents involving negligence, willfulness or intentional misconduct that occurred while the officer was acting in the scope of their employment.
The same idea has also come up here in New Mexico.
A few pros and cons of police liability insurance
How this would work, essentially, is that it would put the decision about who is allowed to work as a police officer in the hands of an insurance company.
That might be viewed as taking significant workplace due process rights away from police officers.
On the other hand, it might be a fairer way of determining who keeps their job. It would be based entirely on an analysis of the cost.
Another potential downside is that this insurance could be too expensive for officers to easily afford. If it is, the police department might have to pay for the insurance, which puts the cost of the insurance on the taxpayer.
It might be worth doing that if the system reduced the cost of police misconduct overall.
Finally, New Mexico has already passed a significant police reform recently. The New Mexico Civil Rights Act changed the rules about when police can be held accountable for their actions. It made it unlawful for any government employee to use the defense of qualified immunity. Until we see the effect that will have, it doesn’t make sense to make additional changes.
That said, police liability insurance might help officers internalize the cost of their behavior. We do need a way to ensure bad cops see real consequences.