Should police officers be held personally responsible when they mess up? This is the thirty-seventh episode of The LAVA Spurt, Hold Cops Responsible.

If you are harmed or killed due to the negligence of a doctor, that doctor is held personally responsible for that act. This is why doctors carry expensive malpractice insurance when they practice. If a doctor loses too many malpractice lawsuits, they can no longer get insurance for a reasonable rate, if at all, which means they can no longer practice medicine because most hospitals require a doctor to carry malpractice insurance, or some hospitals carry the insurance for the doctors. If that insurance is too costly for a specific doctor, the hospital will no longer cover that doctor. This is how it should be. While some states do require doctors who practice to have malpractice insurance, this is not necessary. If we had a true free market in medicine, we could shop our doctors with much better information. Think Consumer Reports for doctors in your area.

But, this brings me to my main point. If police officers were also held personally responsible for screwing up, like when they kill someone unarmed or beat someone for no reason, then there is no doubt these actions would happen with much less frequency. Last week, this happened in my old stomping grounds of Arkansas.

There have also been two other similar cases recently.

Back in February of this year, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was told he must decide whether to pay $100,000 in damages, from his own pocket ? stemming from a civil lawsuit involving an inmate abuse case ? or face liens on his assets. 

In February of last year, a Judge awarded 19-year-old Dontrell Stephens a $22.4 million settlement for being shot and paralyzed by Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy Adam Lin

 

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Should police officers be held personally responsible when they mess up? Thank you for joining me on the thirty-seventh episode of The LAVA Spurt, Hold Cops Responsible.

If you are harmed or killed due to the negligence of a doctor, that doctor is held personally responsible for that act. This is why doctors carry expensive malpractice insurance when they practice. If a doctor loses too many malpractice lawsuits, they can no longer get insurance for a reasonable rate, if at all, which means they can no longer practice medicine because most hospitals require a doctor to carry malpractice insurance, or some hospitals carry the insurance for the doctors. If that insurance is too costly for a specific doctor, the hospital will no longer cover that doctor. This is how it should be. While some states do require doctors who practice to have malpractice insurance, this is not necessary. If we had a true free market in medicine, we could shop our doctors with much better information. Think Consumer Reports for doctors in your area.

But, this brings me to my main point. If police officers were also held personally responsible for screwing up, like when they kill someone unarmed or beat someone for no reason, then there is no doubt these actions would happen with much less frequency. Last week, this happened in my old stomping grounds of Arkansas.

Fifteen-year-old Bobby Moore and a couple of other teenagers were breaking into cars in Little Rock back in 2012. Two officers happened to hear breaking glass during the attempted burglary and say the teenagers trying to flee in a vehicle. The officers used their bodies to try and box in the vehicle. The vehicle while in reverse came close to one of the officers and he assumed they were trying to run him over. The teens say they were just trying to flee and had no intention of running over the officer. The officer was never touched by the vehicle.

The officer, Josh Hastings, fired into the car three times, hitting Moore three times, with one going into his chest and one into his head, killing him. As is the norm when police shoot into moving vehicles, Hastings claimed he feared for his life as the 15-year-old boy attempted to run over him.

The jury didn't buy this, and they awarded the family of Moore $415,000 in restitution. What sets this case apart from the myriad of other civil cases in which police officers are found responsible for killing, beating, and depriving people of their rights, is that this cop was held personally responsible — and will have to pay the victim’s family using his own assets, not the taxpayers.

Before the civil case this month, Hasting was tried twice in criminal court — each time on charges of manslaughter — but the juries ended in deadlock both times. After two mistrials, the prosecutors declined to go after Hastings a third time.

Naturally, after the deadlocked juries, the family of Moore was shaken, feeling like they’d never see justice for their lost child. However, last Thursday, all that changed and a heartening precedent was set.

There are other recent similar cases.

Back in February of this year, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was told he must decide whether to pay $100,000 in damages, from his own pocket — stemming from a civil lawsuit involving an inmate abuse case — or face liens on his assets.

In February of last year, a Judge awarded 19-year-old Dontrell Stephens a $22.4 million settlement for being shot and paralyzed by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Lin. Stephen's crime? Riding a bicycle in his own low-income neighborhood in a manner Lin found suspicious. Lin stopped the youth, who dismounted the bike with a cell phone in his hand and slowly approached the officer. Just outside the range of dash cam video, the officer shot Stephens four times — claiming he was in fear for his life — but footage and evidence clearly showed the claim to be baseless.

Three of the bullets remain lodged in Stephens’ body, according to the Sun Sentinel — two in his arm and one in his spine, which left him paralyzed and dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.

Stephens won a massive $22.4 million settlement and U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer ruled that Lin should foot at least a portion of the bill. Last month, nearly everything this officer owned was seized to pay back Stephens — including everything from his furniture to his clothing.

This is all a step in the right direction. If cops are held personally liable for incidents such as these, they will start carrying insurance to cover them, and many police forces may require such insurance, even in our non-free market police forces. It would be almost guaranteed that actual free-market police forces would require that. There are many companies today that provide private security officer insurance, and most companies require that their private security officers be covered under that type of insurance.

Insurance companies, who can’t fleece the taxpayers to pay for problem cops, would have to come out of pocket to pay for any instances of wrongdoing or injury negligently caused by the covered officer and would make sure that these officers are uninsurable if they have cost the insurance company lots of money.

If the officer becomes uninsurable, the officer becomes unhirable — simple as that.

There are likely many cops out there right now who would be denied insurance coverage by any company, due to their track records. A requirement for personal liability insurance would, quite literally, weed out problem officers — almost overnight. This would go a long way to making all of us safer, including officers, because they would need to think twice before shooting

Let's hope we see more cases like these in the future.

Until next time... keep striking the root!

 

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