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The ‘A’ to the ‘Q’: Yes, if the police department is uninsurable

Wed Nov 27th, 2013 on     Insurance Claims,    

We are circling back to our discussion (starting here) about a small town (not in Florida) that learned in October that its insurance company would be canceling coverage for the town’s police department — both personnel and vehicles — in mid-November. The town council asked six insurance companies for quotes. Just a few days before its coverage lapsed on Nov. 19, the town received the lone bid for its business.

The coverage had cost the town $30,000 per year. The new bid came in at more than double that amount, leaving town leaders with a difficult choice: Pay the premium or pay the county sheriff more than $37,000 to provide police services to the town for the last six weeks of 2013. In the end, the sheriff offered the county’s services free of charge while the town works on other alternatives.

Why the significant increase for coverage? A quick glance at recent news stories offers a hint: It turns out the police department may not be a very good risk.

The old insurer said its decision to cancel had nothing to do with the number of lawsuits filed against the department — a new harassment lawsuit was filed just this week — or the number of incidents of actual or alleged officer misconduct. The mayor said, though, that one of the reasons was the police chief’s failure to comply with “personnel issues.”

A list of some of those personnel issues might include the termination, in 2012, of two officers for misconduct; accusations of sexual and racial discrimination made against the chief; evidence that an officer had been speeding, in his police vehicle, some 700 times over a two-month period; and the district attorney’s dismissal of every traffic citation issued since December 2012 by that same officer, not because of his own speeding but because he admitted in court that he had not calibrated his radar gun.

Furhter, one officer told the press that poor results of the Matrix-Predictive Uniform Law Enforcement Selection Evaluation, or M-PULSE, Inventory test were another contributing factor. According to the testing company’s website, M-PULSE is a tool used with police forces to predict officer misconduct and to “gauge attitudes, values, and beliefs,” among other things, that might affect “job performance risks.” It’s a way to predict liability — liability that could lead to insurance claims.

For the mayor, the insurance cancellation is a blessing in disguise. As a candidate, he pledged to dismantle the police department. What he cannot do, however, is get rid of the chief: He is an elected official, just beginning his fourth four-year term.

Source: The Advocate, “Sorrento meeting on police gets rowdy; council postpones action,” Kate Stevens, Nov. 19, 2013The Advocate, “Sheriff to cover Sorrento policing,” Kate Stevens, Nov. 22, 2013WAFB, “Judge dismisses hundreds of tickets issued by speeding cop,” Oct. 17, 2013The Creole, “End of Sorrento Police Department in sight,” Wade Petite, Oct. 22, 2013Multi-Health Systems Inc., “Psychological Assessments and Services: M-PULSE Inventory,” www.mhs.com, accessed Nov. 22, 2013

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