As an advocate for victims of police brutality and their families, Michelle Gross has alternately worked with and needled Minneapolis city officials. During 30 years of activism, Gross has pursued many, if not most, ways for residents to improve police accountability, from designing civilian oversight to compiling hard-to-get complaint data.
Then six years ago she got a different idea: professional liability insurance. Doctors and lawyers carry malpractice insurance. Why not require police officers to purchase coverage and make them, not just the city, pick up the tab in misconduct settlements?
Gross didn’t know it, but she was about to shake the dust off an old idea that had disappeared from practice more than 50 years ago. The idea upsets modern norms, divides policing experts and potentially recalibrates the balance of power between community, police and city government.
“I thought it was flipping brilliant,” Gross said.
At the time, a string of police misconduct suits and six-figure settlements under then-police chief Tim Dolan had grabbed local headlines. Gross saw a chance to attack a two-pronged problem: officer discipline and runaway payouts. “I’m a homeowner and taxpayer, and I don’t like that our city is budgeting for police misconduct,” she said.
Read more: Chicago reporter