Roundtable Presents Discussion on Proposed Accountability Model for Law Enforcement

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A potential model aimed at increasing accountability for law enforcement misconduct was the subject of a recent online webinar hosted by California Forward (CA Fwd) and the Cato Institute.

For many years, CA Fwd’s Justice System Change initiative has worked to help counties transform their incarceration practices to better advance public safety and equity while making government more efficient and accountable.

Building on this effort, CA Fwd and the Cato Institute held the August 6 virtual conversation, “Criminal Justice Roundtable: Accountable Law Enforcement,” led by the following experts in the criminal justice field:

  • Deborah A. Ramirez, professor of law at Northeastern University who teaches first-year and advanced courses including criminal procedure and post 9/11 civil rights vis-a’-vis counter-terrorism. She also works within the U.S. and Europe to implement community-partnership-based counter-terrorism programs.
  • Clark Neily, vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute whose areas of interest include constitutional law, overcriminalization, civil forfeiture, police accountability and gun rights. He is an adjunct professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.
  • Alana Mathews, the founder and executive director of the Community Justice Collaborative, a grassroots project that focuses on criminal justice reform and community-centric public safety solutions. She is an adjunct professor for the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.

“As an organization that is committed to policy solutions that are ‘regions-up’ and ‘communities-up’, we are dedicated to raising voices of our communities and providing space to explore equitable policy solutions that have the potential to benefit the lives of all Californians,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of CA Fwd. 

During the webinar, Ramirez explained the potential model, which proposes limiting the scope of police unit bargaining and requiring police officers to carry $1 million in professional liability insurance. Under the model, police departments would cover the cost of officers’ average base insurance premiums, with officers responsible for paying a deductible. If an officer’s costs were to rise due to misconduct or related issues, responsibility for the differential in premium cost would fall on the officer.

Ramirez further explained that the theory behind the liability insurance proposal is that the insurance industry would “price out bad actors,” thereby deterring them before they engage in improper actions.

Neily said the proposal holds potential as a public policy opportunity.  

“From a public policy standpoint … we’re confronted with a very serious challenge, a very serious problem that people are crying out for reform,” he said. The proposed model, he said, represents “a relatively light lift that doesn’t require additional expenditure of resources” to address needed criminal justice reforms.

Ramirez said the proposed model promotes law enforcement accountability and could save municipalities money, which then could be reinvested in other services, programs and opportunities to help empower disenfranchised communities. The proposal presented may require amendments to serve a particular state’s needs, Ramirez acknowledged.

Mathews emphasized that far too often police activity that violates constitutional rights disproportionately affects the Black community. It is critical, she said, to “elevate the voices of the community.”

“What the community wants more than anything else is to live,” Mathews said. “It’s not just about saving money. It’s about saving lives.”


John Guenther

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