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Officers May Have To Pay For Insurance

Police officers in New York state may have to foot the bill for their job-related liability insurance.

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, D-Bronx, introduced S.8676 in the state Senate earlier this week to amend the state’s General Municipal Law to add a new section requiring police officers get their own liability coverage and stipulating that the officer’s employer cover the base rate of the policy. Police officers and peace officers would then be excluded from employees held harmless by the state.

“This legislation would exempt police officers and peace officers from the provisions in the Public Officers Law that hold state employees harmless in legal judgements filed in state or federal court,” Biaggi wrote in her legislative justification. “Instead, officers will be required to obtain personal liability insurance that covers any claims against them for acts or omissions that occur during the time they are on the clock. The entity that employs them will be required to cover the base rate of the policy. Officers who engage in misconduct, and as a result have claims brought against them will see their premium go up, creating a financial disincentive for misconduct. Officers who repeatedly engage in misconduct may see their rates go up until it becomes cost prohibitive, forcing officers to change behaviors or leave the field of law enforcement.”

Biaggi cited a New York City Comptroller’s report stating New York City paid out $230 million in 6,472 cases filed between July 2017 and June 2018 filed against New York Police Department officers for excessive force, civil rights violations, false arrests or imprisonments or other misconduct.

There would be a cost to local municipalities under Biaggi’s proposal because local governments would have to pay the base rate of each officer’s insurance policy. Biaggi wrote that the increased cost would be partially offset by a reduction in claims, though there is no written justification for that claim.

Another piece of legislation introduced in the last week in the state Senate would clarify an ongoing legal dispute and make police discipline the purview of municipalities rather than part of the collective bargaining process.

Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, introduced S.8678 to add a new section to the Civil Service Law removing police officer discipline as a subject of collective bargaining. Additionally, it states that sections 75 and 76 of the Civil Service are no longer applicable in police discipline matters.

The New York State Court of Appeals held in a 2006 case involving the town of Orangetown in Rockland County that police discipline is a prohibited subject of collective bargaining. In that decision, the court indicated a public policy in favor of placing police disciplinary matters under the sole control of the municipality. In a subsequent case involving the city of Schenectady, the court also held police discipline is a prohibited subject of bargaining in cities where the Second Class Cities Law applies.

The court cases didn’t settle the matter, though, as there is still litigation pending in state Supreme Courts and Appellate Divisions.

“This bill will ensure that municipalities can retain authority over police discipline to ensure that cases are adjudicated in an open and transparent manner and will provide consistency throughout the state,” May wrote in her legislative justification.

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