Liability insurance often becomes necessary for federal law enforcement officers when there is a major event, operational event, or one that results (or is alleged to result) in safety concerns, public alarm, injury, death, oversight or a security vulnerability or breach. The cost to defend a decision, action or inaction could be cost prohibitive without liability insurance in place – even if you are ultimately vindicated.
Due to your vulnerability to civil suits where DOJ representation and/or indemnification can be denied, Congress passed legislation requiring agencies to reimburse federal law enforcement officers up to half the cost of this insurance. FEDS protection, however, also provides coverage for administrative and disciplinary matters as well as criminal investigations. Coverage information for each exposure is provided below.
Civil Lawsuits / Bivens Actions
Federal employees in all types of jobs and performing all kinds of federal functions can be sued in your personal capacity by private persons or other entities. These types of suits are more likely, however, to be brought against law enforcement officials given your respective law enforcement responsibilities and powers. These law suits, commonly referred to as Bivens, action, usually involve a claim of an alleged violation under the Fourth Amendment claiming an unlawful search or seizure or some other constitutional tort (i.e., 1st, 5th or 8th Amendment violations) arising out of an enforcement action.
While the Department of Justice (DOJ) will represent you in most of these and other civil suits (and you will have some level of immunity to avoid personal liability), this is not always the case. There are lawsuits filed against federal law enforcement officers in which DOJ will not provide a defense—even when the employee is acting within his or her scope of employment—and for which the agent can be held personally liable.
The relevant legal concepts and doctrines in the area of federal employee liability are complicated; we do not attempt to provide a complete analysis of them here—what we want you to know is when and how the FEDS federal law enforcement liability policy protects you from potential civil liabilities.
The FEDS policy basically protects you from civil exposure in two major ways:
- Legal Defense: The FEDS policy will provide you with an attorney to defend in the event that DOJ makes a determination that it is not "in the interest of the United States” to represent the employee (a discretionary DOJ decision). This can occur notwithstanding that the employee was clearly acting within the scope of his/her employment. This most often happens if you are being investigated for the very same reason that you are being sued—you can see that DOJ will not want to be on both sides of that. Should you find yourself facing a civil suit (or Bivens action) or criminal charge without DOJ representation, defending yourself can run $25,000 to well over $100,000 in legal fees; and
- Pays Damages: The FEDS policy provides indemnity protection at either the one or two million dollar limit should an employee be found liable for which the agency will not indemnify. An employee can be held liable and be forced to pay the judgment even when the DOJ is defending the case. In other words, if DOJ defends and loses, the employee can still be liable.
For a more detailed discussion on how our liability coverage interacts with such laws and concepts as the Federal Torts Claims Act, Absolute and Qualified Immunity Doctrines, common law and constitutional torts and how these concepts affect your exposures and potential liability as a federal officer, we have compiled a reading room of relevant articles and more detailed information.
Administrative & Disciplinary Matters
The FEDS PLI policy pays for your legal defense up to $200,000 for any disciplinary or judicial sanction proceeding or administrative investigations into alleged misconduct from any act, error, or omission arising out of your course and scope of employment.
This includes any OIG, OPR, OSC, Internal Affairs, Congressional or any management directed investigation that could result in an action against you. The most common allegations resulting in these investigations include:
- Alleged abuse of investigative authority;
- Alleged abuse of position;
- Lost service weapon or alleged failure to properly safeguard weapon;
- Failure to follow SOP or other supervisory instructions;
- Negligent performance of duties resulting in escape of illegal alien, fugitive or subject, or other operational error(s);
- Allegedly providing inaccurate or false information in an investigative document or in court testimony;
- Whistleblower retaliation; and
- Ethical allegations.
Without FEDS Protection, it will easily cost $15,000 to $50,000 to defend yourself. With FEDS Protection, your attorney would:
- defend against allegations;
- prepare you for the agency administration or investigation process;
- attend the investigative interview with you; and
- defend you in any resulting disciplinary action (both at the agency level and at the MSPB).
The FEDS policy pays for legal defense up to $100,000 for any criminal proceeding or investigation into any act, error, or omission arising out of course and scope of employment. Some of the most common criminal investigations involving federal LEOs are due to inaccurate information in an investigative document or court testimony, conflict of interest statutes, release of privacy act or other statutorily protected information, or an alleged misuse of position or authority.
Following are some of the reasons FEDS is recommended over all other federal employee liability insurance providers by the leading law enforcement associations:
- Legal representation for civil matters is not capped by administrative sublimits. While all carriers will indemnify (in the case of a judgment) up to the limits of the policy, FEDS will not cap the defense at the administrative limits of the policy.
- Coverage is included for law enforcement officers who are serving outside of CONUS or in other international posts of duties – at no additional cost. Of equal importance to law enforcement officers, in certain cases, FEDS will appoint coverage counsel prior to DOJ's determination of scope and interest.
- FEDS offers true "LEOSA” coverage. The FEDS policy fills the LEOSA civil exposure gaps similar to your on-duty civil liability gaps. The FEDS LEOSA coverage provides coverage for any legal and justified act, error or omission pursuant to LEOSA.
- Coverage is included for law enforcement managers and supervisors – at no additional cost - for employment practices liability claims of harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination made against federal managers and supervisors.
- FEDS President and Founder, Anthony Vergnetti, is a former federal attorney of a law enforcement agency who has continually demonstrated his understanding of and commitment to the federal law enforcement community.
FEDS Protection is Affordable:
$1,000,000 Limit; Annual Premium is $290 plus SL tax
$2,000,000 Limit; Annual Premium is $390 plus SL tax
All agencies will reimburse qualified law enforcement officers up to half the cost of this insurance for out of pocket costs as low as $145 annually.
Enrollment takes just a few minutes AND payroll deduction is available.