Minneapolis officials were right to block a proposal requiring police officers to carry liability insurance from going on the ballot as a charter amendment, according to an opinion issued Wednesday by the state Supreme Court.
The court upheld an August 2016 district court decision dismissing a petition to put the insurance proposal on the ballot as a proposed city charter amendment in the November 2016 general election.
“The opinion of the Minnesota Supreme Court confirms the City’s position that the proposed charter amendment was in conflict with State statutes,” City Attorney Susan Segal said in a statement.
The Committee for Professional Policing, a now-defunct citizens’ group, brought the petition to the Minneapolis City Council in July. The proposed amendment would have required officers to carry professional liability insurance. While the city could opt to cover the base rate, officers would be responsible “for any additional costs due to personal or claims history.”
The group intended to reduce police misconduct by placing the financial burden on officers. But Segal said that would conflict with the state law requiring cities to defend and indemnify employees acting within their job duties. A majority of City Council members agreed, and voted against putting the amendment on the ballot.
The Supreme Court agreed with that reading of the law.
“Given that the proposed insurance amendment would expressly prohibit what [state law] permits the City to do — procure additional insurance coverage, even for conduct for which the City would not otherwise be liable — we cannot conclude that the proposed insurance amendment is ‘in harmony with’ state law,” the court said in its majority opinion.
Justice David Stras offered the lone dissent, saying he agreed with the lower court’s decision to dismiss the case but not its reasoning.
Dave Bicking, one of the appellants, said the court’s decision seems to follow a trend of issues like this one not getting on the ballot.
“It’s an issue for the voters,” he said, “and that’s where it should have gone.”