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89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 885 (2014)
Police Indemnification

handle is hein.journals/nylr89 and id is 907 raw text is: POLICE INDEMNIFICATION
JOANNA C. SCHWARTZ*
This Article empirically examines an issue central to judicial and scholarly debate
about civil rights damages actions: whether law enforcement officials are financially
responsible for settlements and judgments in police misconduct cases. The Supreme
Court has long assumed that law enforcement officers must personally satisfy settle-
ments and judgments, and has limited individual and government liability in civil
rights damages actions-through qualified immunity doctrine, municipal liability
standards, and limitations on punitive damages-based in part on this assumption.
Scholars disagree about the prevalence of indemnification: Some believe officers
almost always satisfy settlements and judgments against them, and others contend
indemnification is not a certainty.
In this Article, I report the findings of a national study of police indemnification.
Through public records requests, interviews, and other sources, I have collected
information about indemnification practices in forty-four of the largest law enforce-
ment agencies across the country, and in thirty-seven small and mid-sized agencies.
My study reveals that police officers are virtually always indemnified: During the
study period, governments paid approximately 99.98% of the dollars that plaintiffs
recovered in lawsuits alleging civil rights violations by law enforcement. Law
enforcement officers in my study never satisfied a punitive damages award entered
against them and almost never contributed anything to settlements or judgments-
even when indemnification was prohibited by law or policy, and even when officers
were disciplined, terminated, or prosecuted for their conduct. After describing my
findings, this Article considers the implications of widespread indemnification for
qualified immunity, municipal liability, and punitive damages doctrines; civil rights
litigation practice; and the deterrence and compensation goals of 42 U.S. C. § 1983.
Introduction        ......................................... 887
I. AsSUMPrIONS          ...................................           892
A. Doctrine                 ................................. 892
1.   Qualified Immunity        ...................... 892
2.  Municipal Liability.      ...........      ...........    895
3.  Punitive Damages....            ..................        897
* Copyright @ 2014 by Joanna C. Schwartz, Assistant Professor of Law, University of
California, Los Angeles, School of Law. For helpful conversations and comments, thanks
to Ash Bdli, Joel Berger, Peter Bibring, Karen Blum, Sam Bray, Ann Carlson, Maureen
Carroll, Scott Cummings, Joe Doherty, Ingrid Eagly, Theodore Eisenberg, Richard Fallon,
Barry Friedman, Marc Galanter, Robert Goldstein, Laura G6mez, Allison Hoffman, Mark
Iris, John Jeffries, Jerry L6pez, Margo Schlanger, Peter Schuck, Seana Shiffrin, David
Sklansky, Jon Varat, Jordan Woods, Steve Yeazell, Noah Zatz, and participants in work-
shops at University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; University of California, Los
Angeles, School of Law; and RAND Institute for Civil Justice. Thanks also to Jack
Cambou, Brian Cardile, Tommy Huynh, Karen Kwok, Madeline Morrison, Vicki Steiner,
and the expert research staff at UCLA's Hugh & Hazel Darling Law Library for excellent
research assistance, and to Amelia Frenkel, Daniel Michaeli, Calisha Myers, Anthony
Ruiz, and the editors of the New York University Law Review for their editorial assistance.
885

Imaged with Permission of N.Y.U. Law Review

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