A growing number of U.S. law enforcement officers are protecting themselves against lawsuits.
The largest police union in the United States, the Fraternal Order of Police, has recently reported that law enforcement officers are buying professional liability insurance on an increasing basis as a result of concerns over being sued for their actions while on duty.
In the span of one year, running from July 2014 through July 2015, there was a double-digit increase in coverage.
Within that span of time, the union reported that members buying professional liability insurance increased by 15 percent. This, according to data recently released by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and that was reported on by Reuters near the end of March. Before the range of time included in that data, the increases in the purchase of coverage had been rising by a rate of only around one to three percent per year, said the FOP executive director, Jim Pasco.
It is clear from the rise in professional liability insurance coverage that police are concerned over lawsuits.
The union currently represents over 330,000 officers across the United States. This type of liability insurance is meant to help to provide officers with coverage for legal fees in case they should ever be sued for their actions while on duty. That said, these policies are not designed to protect law enforcement officers against criminal prosecution.
This spike in the purchase of these insurance policies has arrived at the same time as a nationwide debate with regards to whether or not police officers should be placed under greater scrutiny and surveillance. This has been underscored by a rising number of publicized cases in which law enforcement officers have used deadly force against civilians who were not armed and among whom many were minorities.
The FOP union currently sells the professional liability insurance policies for $265 per year. Pasco explained that “In an already litigious society, the likelihood of a police officer being sued or charged, often falsely, grows by the day. Officers are increasingly aware of the need to be protected and joining the FOP legal defense plan in growing numbers.”