Austin defense lawyer Kiele Linroth Pace posts about an American Statesman article out today, “Some Austin police buying suspension insurance”:

Several Austin police officers, fearful that a misstep on the street will result in an unpaid suspension, demotion or firing, have begun taking out insurance policies to protect themselves from a potential monetary hit.

As Kiele notes, “I wouldn’t begrudge the officers’ efforts to protect themselves except that I’m pretty sure there’s no insurance coverage available to cover missed or lost employment due to wrongful arrest.” Indeed. According to the article:

The insurance would cover financial losses for more routine suspensions, which result from incidents such as minor patrol car accidents, tardiness or rudeness, but could not be used in situations in which officers’ actions injure a person or in which they knowingly violate the law or demonstrate "intentional wrongdoing."

For example, the policies would not cover officers suspended for drunken driving, drug use or excessive use of force, company officials said.

The Austin chapter of the ACLU has a different take:

Debbie Russell, president of the Austin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and a frequent police critic, said she thinks officers have a right to protect themselves financially. However, she said, she is concerned about the insurance purchase.

"I’m not sure if that is a good message for them to send, as if they are expecting to be fired or suspended," she said.

“Not sure”. Well I don’t know how I feel about it either. From a purely PR standpoint, it cries out for smart alec defense lawyers to amuse themselves by writing “aren’t-I-clever” titled posts. But apparently this sort of insurance is available in other professions, why should police be automatically excluded?

Like most things, we’ll have to wait and see what the final result here is to know the effect. How will the minor/major infraction rule be enforced?

For example, what about the “rudeness exception”? How is that measured? If police interaction with the citizenry is rude enough to warrant suspension, can it be completely unintentional? (Or is it only “major” if you’re rude to the police chief?)

The devil, as always, is in the details…