Follow the money…that’s what they always say.
Despite clear evidence of widespread police misconduct and brutality across the country — often with racial ramifications — the calls for police reform have been met with varied and disappointing results. But something might just be changing deep in the machinery of the bureaucracy that operates the ship.
A few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran an article highlighting a new financial pressure calling for Law Enforcement accountability from a somewhat surprising source — insurance companies.
Where community activists, use-of-force victims and city officials have failed to persuade police departments to change dangerous and sometimes deadly policing practices, insurers are successfully dictating changes to tactics and policies, mostly at small to medium-size departments throughout the nation.
The movement is driven by the increasingly large jury awards and settlements that cities and their insurers are paying in police use-of-force cases, especially since the 2020 deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Those cases led to settlements of $12 million and $27 million, respectively. Insurance companies are passing the costs — and potential future costs — on to their law enforcement clients.
In the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders, calls for police reform at first seemed to be working.
Governors across the country signed 243 bills in the first year intent on changing policing in the the U.S., after the crisis brought about by George Floyd’s murder. However, many reform advocates were frustrated by the focus on changing practices rather than dealing with difficult issues like massive and misused law enforcement budgets.
And, of course, soon after, the blowback began, with Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights being passed (now in 24 states.) Oh, yeah, let’s protect the cops better? (Don’t get me wrong, I am not a cop hater, I have known some good ones, but the institution is sick and corrupt and racist as f…)
At least 24 states have laws commonly referred to as a “Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights” (LEOBOR). Nearly all states have some statutes that address how law enforcement officers may be investigated, disciplined, or otherwise treated by the government agencies that employ them. The term LEOBOR is descriptive of how these rights are enumerated similar to state bills of rights or the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, but it is not indicative of the rights contained in each state’s unique law.
Many arguments have occurred (here and elsewhere) over how to refer to the reform that is needed across law enforcement in this country. I’m not fond of “defund” the police because I saw it cause a good effort in a nearby city to get sidetracked. Early on, I suggested “refund the police” as in put the money in better places — social workers, outreach programs, education, etc. (less weapons, etc) but, it didn’t take. Lol. We can’t waste time arguing about this.
POICE REFORM is a must. I believe trust is at an all-time low, for so many. Obviously, a person of color has to think long and hard before ever calling the police for any reason; but of late, anyone with any kind of mental health issue (including old age) is at risk. At risk of being harmed, killed, jailed or misunderstood by those who we, ourselves, pay to help, serve, and protect us. Personally, I think it is silly to argue over a meme. But it is critical to enforce a mission, and essential not to waste public money on horrific risks. Let’s follow the money, and “choke it off.”
Across the country, allegations over police conduct are at the taxpayers’ expense: The Post investigation in March documented more than $3.2 billion spent over the past decade to resolve nearly 40,000 claims at 25 of the nation’s largest police and sheriff’s departments.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and this represents a major shift,” said John Chino, a broker who secures insurance for cities and counties in six states.
“They are asking lots of very detailed questions. ‘Do they use chokeholds? What does their de-escalation training look like?’ If they aren’t doing something on the list, they are required to get it if they want coverage.”
Insurance companies are not in the business of giving money away. I’m often very, very grateful to them. I hope they follow through across the country and save many lives. Maybe even change an entire “business” where “life” is again valued.
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One of the first changes the insurers called for was fewer police pursuits. And don’t we know how horribly these end up for so many innocent victims!? Many of us here will never forget the heartbreak of little Fanta Bility’s death a year and a half ago.