Activist company

Texas company launches liability insurance for police

The United States’ first professional liability insurance policy for law enforcement is now available for purchase from a Texas-based company. Prymus Insurance is a small insurance company in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that specializes in niche insurance policies and offers Hero’s Insurance for police officers.

The idea has been around for quite some time. Basically, officers would have to carry liability insurance to cover the costs of settlements and judgments if they were sued, which is required in many other professions. First, it would mean that taxpayers would no longer foot the bill when officers are successfully prosecuted, saving municipalities millions of dollars each year. Second, police misconduct would be discouraged because bad behavior means higher risk to the insurance company and therefore higher premiums. Repeat offenders would end up seeing premiums so high that they were effectively overpriced. On the other hand, things like de-escalation training might be rewarded with lower bounties, creating a carrot in addition to the stick.

“I always say this is a free-market solution to a constitutional problem,” Prymus CEO Jeff Harrison said in an interview with the Signal.

While the idea had been floated by activists for decades, the killing of George Floyd gave new impetus to police reform. According to Prymus, more than 30 states have passed more than 140 new police oversight and reform laws since May 2020. One of the key proposed reforms is to end qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that makes more difficult to institute civil proceedings against agents. Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Connecticut, and New York City have taken steps to prohibit or limit qualified immunity, sparking new interest in police liability insurance.

However, Harrison pointed out that even with qualified immunity officers, they were not completely immune from prosecution. “There’s no question about it, but it doesn’t eliminate the process,” Harrison said. “Qualified immunity does not prevent someone from suing and even if an officer has been granted qualified immunity, another judge can withdraw it.”

Harrison says many officers are unaware they may need insurance even with qualified immunity. “I keep trying to explain to these guys, listen, let’s just say they didn’t take away qualified immunity in your state or county or city or whatever, you’re still responsible,” Harrison said. “And it is only by the grace of the taxpayers that they pay it. If the taxpayers stood up and said, “we’re just not going to pay for cops taking away someone’s constitutional rights,” tomorrow it would be done. Tomorrow, they should have insurance.

Indeed, Harrison says the first officers to enroll were from North Carolina, a state that has not eliminated or reduced qualified immunity.

Setting up an insurance policy requires a way to assess risk, so policy liability insurance needs data to determine which officers are most at risk of misconduct. When the Signal spoke with Harrison last year, he said getting that data was one of the biggest challenges. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been easier since. “It’s almost like we have to reach a critical mass of agents that we’re insuring,” Harrison said. “Then we can go to the politicians and say we need to know this information about the people who are our clients.” For now, Prymus asks agents to answer a series of questions, such as whether they’ve ever been fired, and if they answer dishonestly, they’re committing insurance fraud.

Prymus is just getting started with police liability insurance, but they have big ambitions for that. “It’s kind of like we’ve taken the first step of a journey of a million steps, because in my opinion there are a million officers, we want a million officers,” said Harrison said. “And the sooner we can do that, the better for everyone.”