The PEW Research Center surveyed law enforcement officers and U.S. adults amid protests and growing calls for the reform of law enforcement tactics and procedures – four years ago. We recommend you review the report of the "Behind the Badge” surveys1
addressing the current attitudes and perceptions of policing and the deep disconnects between law enforcement officers and the public. It offers a glimpse into the psychology of policing, the debate over police conduct and methods, and concerns over officer safety and liability.
If an allegation is made against you, your first thoughts will be ‘who do I call’, ‘will my agency defend me’, ‘who will cover liability damages if DOJ defends me and loses’. Assuming that your agency will defend your actions and indemnify on your behalf – "as long as you are in scope” - is a mistake. For federal agents and officers, defense is a two-part test – first there is scope, which is pretty straightforward in most cases; the second is interest to defend – and this is where things get more complicated. According to Jon Adler, the past president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association (FLEOA), "getting the insurance too late is like putting body armor on a corpse”.
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. Your decisions, actions and/or inactions will be subject to intense scrutiny with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. If you or your agency is the next to come under scrutiny by the public, politician or a news reporter, you need to know what matters – and what doesn’t.
- Injury or Death. Scrutiny will follow. Welcome it. But do so with quality legal representation. Read about the quality of FEDS Protection legal representation here.
- Public Perception. Even if the information is incomplete or erroneous, public perception matters – now more than ever.
- Media Sensation and Media Effects. Sensationalism matters because ratings matter. Narratives are propelled or buried by many of today’s news producers and reporters based on personal and political views.
- Social Media Propaganda. Your life can be turned upside down in an instant – without information being questioned, verified, fact checked, or explained. Video with no or incomplete pretext, is quickly and widely disseminated, and opined about.
- Political Agendas. The average federal agent and officer has no idea how broad, frightening and overwhelming congressional powers are when conducting investigations. These types of investigations are often used as a game of strategy, where federal employees are the political pawns. Politicians, on both sides, use the investigative process to push political agendas leaving a wake of destruction – and this happens much more often than you can possibly imagine.
What Doesn’t Matter
What doesn’t matter, at least initially, is the whole story. It could take months or even years until an investigation commences or a case is tried, and all aspects of the investigation or case are presented. Often times, the media coverage of initial allegations is newsworthy for days or weeks or more, yet the final verdict gets just a few minutes of media attention, if at all. For some employees, offices or agencies, the truth doesn’t even matter in the end. The damage is already done. How often do you see the media or politicians apologizing or correcting prior comments or coverage especially when it vilified a defendant or federal worker? What also doesn’t matter, at least initially, is extenuating circumstances. You may be ultimately vindicated, after being unjustly treated or wrongfully accused of misconduct, but it’s a lonely and expensive road.
FEDS President, Tony Vergnetti, was an attorney for a federal agency, prior to founding FEDS Protection. He knows the adversarial, often confrontational, and sometimes high-profile nature of investigations involving law enforcement officers. He is familiar with the effects of political agendas on federal employees. He understands the seriousness of inquiries and hearings involving those who work with, for or on behalf of the public. He knows your vulnerabilities and urges you to understand your exposures and the protections available to you so you can properly prepare and/or defend yourself if you become the next subject or target of an allegation or investigation in the performance of your everyday duties.
You may contact us with questions or for additional information at 866.955.FEDS or email us
1Source: Survey of law enforcement officers conducted May 19-Aug. 14, 2016; survey of U.S. adults conducted Aug. 16-Sept. 12, 2016. "Behind the Badge” PEW RESEARCH CENTER