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Using insurance to improve policing

There are two insurance-related police reform ideas being discussed.

One approach focuses on municipal liability insurance.  Many municipalities do not purchase liability insurance to cover lawsuits against officers, instead choosing to self-insure.  This is potentially a problem because insurers actually play an important role in loss control.  They provide information and services related to procedures, training, the risks posed by individual officers, etc.

The second proposal would require individual police officers to purchase professional liability insurance, in the same way that doctors and other professionals do today:

In response, we propose an innovative, market-based solution – mandatory professional liability insurance for police officers. Much the way that drivers with terrible records may be forced off the roads by high premiums, officers with the most dangerous histories, tendencies, and indicators might be “priced-out” of policing by premiums that reflect their actual risk of unjustified violence. Potential reductions or increases in premiums would create systemic effects by incentivizing both departments and individual officers to adopt policies, trainings, and procedures that are proven to lower risk.  Insurance companies, an outside third-party removed from local politics, would be in an ideal position to assess indicators of risk actuarially and set premiums accordingly.

My sense is that neither of these proposals are magic bullets, but they may be worth trying.

Under the first proposal, municipalities that buy insurance would have less of an incentive to prevent lawsuits than they do when they self-insure.  The loss control expertise of insurance companies may offset this, but municipalities that self-insure can (I assume) purchase loss control services today.  They may choose not to do so, presumably because of pressures from police officers and unions, because “loss control” includes things like getting rid of problem officers.  This is the heart of the political problem, and insurance will not make it go away, though it may help create pressure for reform if it makes better information about the costs of poor policing available.

Forcing municipalities to purchase insurance may also help if municipal governments that self-insure do not put aside adequate funds (“reserves”) to pay for wrongdoing by police officers that occurs today.  By under-reserving for today’s wrongful behavior by police, city officials can pass the costs of poor policing practices on to future officials and taxpayers.  If municipalities purchase reasonably full insurance, the expected costs of lawsuits from current policing practices will be reflected in the current insurance premium.  This will increase the incentive of city officials to reduce behavior that leads to lawsuits.  It seems to me that this may be the main advantage of both proposals.

The same problems would arise under the second proposal.  In addition, the prices charged to individual officers would quickly be politicized, just as they are in many other areas of insurance.  More subtly, full experience rating of officers may not be desirable because it exposes officers to too much risk.

 

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Has Trump Created A Praetorian Guard In Washington?

Has Trump Created A Praetorian Guard In Washington?

President Trump has already shown his Orwellian tendencies by giving a speech on Monday in the Rose Garden in which he declared his “respect” for peaceful protesters at the very moment that forces ultimately responding to an order by Trump violently attacked peaceful protesters in front of the White House to remove them from Lafayette Square, as well as priests and parishioners from the patio of their St. John’s Church across from the White House.  This attack and removal of the protesters as well as church people allowed Trump to walk across the square fot photo op at the church, holding up a Bible backwards and upside down.  While it has been admitted that ultimately this attack reflected Trump wanting to have this photo op, it remains unclear precisely which federal forces were part of the attack and exactly who was immediately commanding them.  It seems at a minimum that this involved federal Park Police, but may have included DC National Guard, and maybe  Secret service personnel, as well as maybe others, although no DC police or officials, with Mayor Bowswe opposing this action.

Most seem to think that AG Barr gave the immediate order, but he does not seem to official authority over  several of these groups, notably the Secret Service.  SecDef Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Milley were present during Trump’s walk across the square, but are now apparently claiming not to have any responsibility for this.  Esper and Milley have since come under strong criticism by many people either in the GOP such as the Lincoln Project group as well as current and former high DOD officials, including James Miller who publicly resigned from the DOD Science Board in protest as well as a strong memo by former SecDef “Mad Dog” Mattis.

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Looking Down Right Now

“Ryan is looking down right now, and you know that, and he is very happy, because I think he just broke a record.”

“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country,”

Trump’s cynical invoking of George Floyd yesterday has a history that explains what he imagined he was doing. In the first week after his inauguration, Trump approved a Navy Seal raid on suspected positions of al Queda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the village of Yakla in Yemen. His National Security Adviser, General Flynn had portrayed the proposed raid as a “game changer” that would contrast Trump’s toughness with Obama’s supposed indecisiveness.

The raid was a fiasco. AQAP had somehow learned of the impending raid and fortified their positions. Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was mortally wounded and at least five other American personnel were also wounded. Dozens of civilians were killed. Owens’s father called the mission “a screw-up from the start that ended badly.”

Characteristically, Trump deflected responsibility for the raid to the generals and the previous administration while incongruously insisting that it had been a tremendous success. A month later, though, came his opportunity to seize the narrative. At his first address to a joint session of Congress, Trump read from the teleprompter a glowing tribute to Officer Owens. He performed the encomium with gusto. When he finished, senators, representatives and guests stood in a sustained ovation while Owens’s tearful widow, a guest of Ivanka Trump, gazed upward.

Trump then ad-libbed his remark about Ryan looking down. The quip was well received with gentle chuckling. It nicely broke the tension of the dramatic spectacle.

Now one might dismiss the episode as a cynical, and sinister, exploitation of a pointless death — not to mention the “collateral damage” — and a widow’s grief. But that isn’t the way CNN panelist and ex-Obama aide Van Jones saw it. Jones lauded the performance as “one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics.” It was, in Jones’s view, the moment Trump “became president of the United States”:

That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period, and he did something extraordinary. And for people who have been hoping that he would become unifying, hoping that he might find some way to become presidential, they should be happy with that moment. For people who have been hoping that maybe he would remain a divisive cartoon, which he often finds a way to do, they should begin to become a little bit worried tonight, because that thing you just saw him do—if he finds a way to do that over and over again, he’s going to be there for eight years. Now, there was a lot that he said in that speech that was counterfactual, that was not right, that I oppose and will oppose. But he did something tonight that you cannot take away from him. He became president of the United States.

Undoubtedly Trump would have been shown Jones’s effusive commentary and would have basked in its obsequious glow. Yesterday, when he pulled his “looking down right now” stunt for the second time, he probably expected it to resonate as a unifying moment, thinking he was finding “a way to do that over and over again” without quite understanding what “that” had been. George Floyd was not a Navy Seal killed in action. He was an African-American man murdered by cops. The protesters are not sycophantic trained seals like the senators and representatives (of both parties). And, of course, Princess Ivanka had neglected to bring a grieving widow in tow to the “press conference.” There was nothing “presidential” about Trump’s ghoulish sequel of his “most extraordinary moment.”

If the prior performance illuminates the latter one, the opposite is also true. Trump’s tribute to Ryan Owens was no less cynical than his clumsy attempt to enlist George Floyd as a posthumous protagonist of the allegedly “great thing that’s happening for our country.”

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A Bit of Levity on Friday Night

I saw the first pic on Hullabaloo and I pulled a second pick from Google. The first pic looks remarkedly like General Flynn. Digsby has an article up called “More of this, please” from where the first picture came of a protestor to Trump’s visit to Maine. The look-a-like Flynn is protesting Trump’s visit to Maine. Do you agree on the similarity?

Agree???

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Trump’s Marshmallow Dilemma

In 1972, Professor and Psychologist Walter Mischel at Stanford University set into play a study on delayed gratification using children. A child was offered a choice between one immediate reward or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. During this time after the announcement of a reward, the researcher left the room for ~15 minutes and then returned.

The reward was either a marshmallow or pretzel stick dependent upon the child’s preference and if they waited. Follow-up life time studies of those children, discovered those who had waited longer for the additional and preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index, and other life measures. When a replication of the original study was done with a more diverse sample population 10 times larger than the original study, the later study revealed half the effect of the original study. The later study suggested economic background, rather than willpower, explained why some took the reward sooner.

Washington Monthly’s Anne Kim suggests America is now facing something akin in a national Marshmallow Test. States are pushing to reopen their economies, even with the evidence (as NewDealdemocrat points out in a June 2 post) the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Summer is almost upon us and as restrictions loosen; citizens will have to determine how far they will react to a choice of pre-pandemic normalcy such as a trip to a salon, a cookout with friends, or a night out at the theater rather than remain isolated at home longer and reap the reward of greater safety besides freedom. If they choose to take the reward now, another issue will be whether they continue to maintain the discipline of social distancing until the virus is genuinely under control for greater safety. It will be challenging to forego the summer’s most sought-after activities such as a trip to the beach; but, the more abstemious people and countries who stay at home and socially distance themselves as well will reap greater rewards and safety later. No doubt, those countries persevering in taming the virus will claim the prize of a potentially lasting economic stability.

Another view and the politics    .    .    . 

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If only it were so simple

If only it were so simple

by

Ken Melvin

The covid-19 pandemic has been difficult to get a handle on; so much unknown, everyday so much new info. It will probably take years for the world to fully to understand all that the 2020 covid-19 pandemic entailed.

The George Floyd protests are all too familiar. The gut wrenching images from Minneapolis angered the nation. I don’t know what it’s like to be black in America; don’t feel that I have the right to say what I think for fear that I might be wrong; might do harm; but there is a part of Black Americans’ struggle and of the protests that I feel that I do know something about; enough to offer my thoughts.

America is not doing well; hasn’t been doing well for more than 45 yrs now. Today, by any measure, even before the pandemic, 40% of our workforce is not really making a living. The extensions of this are monumental! Yet our politicians prattle on about the ‘middle class’ while for all these years the middle class has been shrinking before our very eyes; the poorer workers have kept getting poorer. America is, and has now long been, in denial.

For 45 yrs now, the middle class, along with all other Americans, has been, more than anytime since the Great Depression?, subjected to a selection process; a selection process that applies to all American workers. As there are fewer and fewer good paying jobs, the standards for hiring keep getting tighter. What standards you ask? Age, education, health, credit, social status, religion, culture, race, ethnicity, … make up your own. Yes, all are forms of discrimination, all are arbitrary; but as there are fewer and fewer good paying jobs there has to be a way of deciding. Universities do it, always have; there’s always been a selection process. Even during the Great Depression , if you knew the right someone, you could get a good job; meritocracy be damned. It is not at all as simple as ‘whitey’ has to give ‘us’ some of what their getting; it’s more that the whole working class is suffering and that those at the bottom are suffering the most. And, this will continue unless major changes are made to the economic model.

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Public opinion and police reform

From Cato:

  • 79% of Americans support having outside law enforcement agencies investigate police misconduct, rather than leave it to the department to handle. It may surprise some readers to learn that most jurisdictions in the U.S. allow police departments to investigate and discipline their own officers. Instead, most Americans think having some outside oversight could enhance accountability. Majorities across racial groups support this: 81% of whites, 82% of blacks, and 66% of Latinos support outside investigations of misconduct.
  • 65% of Americans believe racial profiling is commonly used, but nearly the same share oppose it. 63% oppose the practice of police stopping motorists or pedestrians of certain racial or ethnic groups if police believe that these groups are more likely than others to commit certain types of crimes. 62% of whites, 77% of blacks, and 62% of Hispanics all oppose racial profiling.
  • 68% support de‐​escalation training for police to aid police officers during confrontations with citizens. 62% of whites, 81% of blacks, and 70% of Hispanics support providing this additional training to officers.
  • 53% think local police departments using military weapons and armored vehicles “goes too far” and aren’t necessary for law enforcement purposes. Presumably, these same Americans think police ought not to use such equipment. 53% of whites, 58% of blacks, and 51% of Hispanics think local police using military weapons goes too far.
  • 89% support the police wearing body cameras. Americans don’t think this is just for civilians’ benefit—but for police officers too. Nearly three‐​fourths (74%) think body cameras equally protect police officers who wear them and citizens who interact with them. 90% of whites, 89% of blacks, and 87% of Hispanics support police wearing body cameras.
  • 73% support a law requiring police officers to notify citizens when a stop is voluntary and they are free to decline a search, including 74% of whites, 63% of blacks, and 74% of Latinos.
  • 54% favor treating drug offenses like minor traffic violations with small fines rather than as felonies. Some scholars believe cooling the drug war could reduce the number of high stakes encounters between police and communities thereby helping to rebuild trust. 54% of whites, 59% of blacks, and 52% of Hispanics support re‐​categorizing drug offenses from felonies to civil offenses.
  • 84% support ending a practice called civil asset forfeiture in which police may take money or property of a person they suspect may have been involved in a crime before the person is convicted. 84% of whites, 86% of blacks, and 80% of Hispanics think police should only be allowed to seize property after a conviction.
  • 67% support banning neck restraints as a police tactic, including 67% of whites, 74% of blacks, and 59% of Latinos. (According to a Yahoo/​YouGov May 2020 survey)
  • 80% support implementing an early warning system to identify problematic officers, including 81% of whites 88% of blacks, and 74% of Latinos. (According to a Yahoo/​YouGov May 2020 survey)

Much more at the link.  There is a real opportunity here . . .

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Will confident conservatism end with a bang or a whimper?

I highly recommend David Hopkins blog.  Yesterday, he posted a piece on the end of confident conservatism.  It begins like this:

After Richard Nixon’s 1968 election, many conservatives came to believe that their movement naturally represented the political views of most Americans. This conservative faith in the wisdom of the average citizen was cemented by Ronald Reagan’s popularity in the 1980s, which was widely interpreted at the time (and not just by conservatives) as a decisive expression of the nation’s exhaustion with both outdated New Deal economic policies and decadent ’60s-era cultural practices.

Here are the final paragraphs:

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