Associate Magazine - FBINAA - Q3-2022

Continued from "Off-Duty Liability ", on page 42

WHAT IS COMPREHENSIVE LIABILITY COVERAGE FOR OFF-DUTY JOBS? Comprehensive general liability insurance typically pro vides coverage of injuries, property damage, and lawsuits for the insured parties (individuals and/or organizations). This type of liability insurance coverage helps protect private businesses from claims of bodily injury or property damage that can come up during normal business operations. Without general liability coverage, a business would have to pay for medical expenses and property damages out of pocket. Within the scope of on-duty work, cities, agencies, officers, and citizens rely heavily on the fact that there will be a payout in case of an incident. If in the course of a life-or-death incident, an officer damages an expensive parked vehicle or a bystander is inadvertently injured, liability coverage is vital. If lives are at stake, there is no time to assess potential damage and the officer must act fast. In this sense, agencies and cities have relied on such li ability policies for years. This is and has always been for “on-duty.” A comprehensive liability policy for working off-duty is much the same. Depending on the policy there are typically protections in place for contingencies such as property damage, injuries, or legal fees. The difference is that off-duty liability coverage specifi cally protects the officer in event that he is being paid by a private business at the time of the incident. As a chief, it shocked me to learn that this coverage was not already in place for off-duty job activities. The principles are the same; an officer could damage property or incur personal injury while protecting the community. However, because they are work ing off-duty, paid by a private business, the protection of a city’s liability coverage may not apply and often doesn’t. STATE SUPREME COURT RULING In 2021, one of the more alarming and defining off-duty job industry decisions was made. In Minnesota, the State Supreme Court denied an officer’s request for defense and indemnification regarding a personal injury lawsuit. The officer was working at a community shelter and was unable to detect a weapon that had been smuggled into the center. The weapon was later used to attack an individual on the premises who sustained injuries. Al though the officer was not present when the attack occurred, nor involved in the investigation, the State Supreme Court ruled that he was liable for the attack and not entitled to indemnification. For law enforcement leaders, this ruling is incredibly con cerning. When a Supreme Court rules, it often sets a precedent for lower courts to follow. A ruling like this creates a wave of fear and uncertainty for officers and agencies. Whether it comes from a State Supreme Court, city attorneys, or risk management, it is common for officers involved in an off-duty incident to be denied the liability coverage they assumed they had. It will ultimately be a government entity that designates whether they were acting in the color of law, and their decision can go either way. What follows afterward is going to be a wave of support or a whole lot of noth ing. As officers and LE leadership, we must acknowledge that it’s too risky to take that chance. Even though the Minnesota officer was protecting the public and preserving the peace, his status of working “off-duty” resulted in a devastating precedent that could cause even more potential damage. Legal rulings like these not only impact officers working off-duty, but the agencies which employ them, as well as the busi

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nesses seeking officers for security services . Entry control, frisking subjects, weapons confiscation - all actions taken by the officer were seemingly in-line with the statutes of official police work. It is natural to assume that the state would defend and stand behind the officer. Sadly, this was not the case. Rulings such as these, whether on the State Supreme Court level or lower, have the potential to paralyze officers from seeking to work off-duty. That, in turn, means less safety for those com munity businesses seeking off-duty officers for security. HOW AGENCY LEADERS CAN USE CENTRALLY ADMINISTERED PROGRAMS Many Chiefs, Sheriffs, and other agency leaders have a long list of priorities and understandably decide to delegate as much as possible regarding off-duty employment. Most try to utilize an off-duty job coordinator who oversees the off-duty activity and provides updates on operational details. However, most off-duty coordinators, like most LEO’s, aren’t liability experts. To protect officers right now, agency leaders can partner with a third-party organization that provides comprehensive administrative services and liability insurance. Many agencies use these services to pre vent off-duty issues like double-dipping, job distribution disputes, and to reduce the agency resources used to manage off-duty jobs. A key component of most reputable organizations that provide centrally administered services is the inclusion of com prehensive liability coverage for officers working off-duty jobs.

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