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Police Indemnification

By Joanna C. Schwartz

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When police indemnification is granted, damages are not paid by officers themselves, but instead by their municipal employers, or rather, taxpayer dollars. In an empirical study of indemnification practices, legal scholar Joanna Schwartz conducted a study published in the NYU Law Review which found that police officers virtually never contributed to settlements and judgment against them, with governments paying approximately 99.98% of damages received by plaintiffs.

From 2006-2011, law enforcement agencies only paid 0.02% of dollars awarded to plaintiffs in the 44 largest agencies and paid no damages in the 37 small and mid-sized agencies (Schwartz, 2017). Furthermore, the study found only two jurisdictions (New York City and Cleveland) where officers were responsible for a portion of the settlements and judgments against them, and the median officer contribution in these agencies was $2,250 with no officer paying more than $25,000 (Schwartz, 2017).

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