In Ferguson, Mo., most recently, but in a growing number of situations, citizens are using their cellphones to capture videos of police officers in action.
Often, those videos offer negative portrayals, but more and more, police departments are using similar technology to demonstrate their professionalism and protect their reputations.
Gold on Unanticipated Exposures
While early statistics indicate that BWCs are a promising effective risk management tool, like a lot of technological innovations, they can create unanticipated problems, said Joshua Gold, head of the cyber insurance recovery group at Anderson Kill P.C., a NYC-based national law firm specializing in insurance recovery.
“For example, if these cameras capture images of people who are innocent and uninterested in any type of publicity but nonetheless get caught up in unflattering video footage, you could see legal defense coverage costs coverage, at a minimum, being implicated and important to cash-strapped municipalities,” said Gold.
Even something as heroic as officers helping to deliver a baby could arguably constitute an invasion of privacy if the video footage ended up posted to the Internet or lampooned on late-night cable programming, he noted.
“As such, while the BWCs may reduce liability exposure for certain types of risks like bodily injury claims and false arrest claims, they could arguably lead to other exposures dealing with privacy, false light and emotional distress from alleged public humiliation,” Gold added.
Passannante on Unanticipated Exposures
Anderson Kill’s William G. Passannante, New York-based co-chair of the firm’s insurance recovery group, said that state and municipal government entities regularly purchase liability insurance that covers the liability asserted on account of the actions of their police officers.
“Historically, liabilities for allegations of assault, false arrest, wrongful imprisonment, trespass and the like are all covered under standard form insurance liability policies purchased by such entities,” said Passannante.
The apparent reduction in claims in Rialto, Calif., suggests that BWCs could be part of a loss control program supported by insurance underwriters, he added.
“Liability for ‘misuse’ of BWC, such as in a claim for violation of privacy, is at least possible and would very likely be covered by existing insurance policies,” said Passannante.
“Of course, the regulatory scheme under which BWCs are introduced would be expected to address such issues, and I would expect police departments to request certain ‘safe harbor’ provisions regarding the use of camera footage they are required to record,” he noted.
Read the full article: Capturing the Moment