Sticker Shock: In Defense of Legal Defense

Call me biased, but I like Troopers. And I love the CSP Family that I’ve become a part of — from gaining friends in the Comm Center, Admins, VA’s alike. I like seeing you all safe, sound, and able to perform your duties without skipping a beat. But, in an already dangerous and thankless profession where you risk your safety and lives in order to form a barrier between criminals and society, the grim fact is that time to time you get punished for doing just that. Gone are the days where Troopers could, to an extent, protect themselves, family, and money, as today’s reality has flip-flopped that power to where you cannot shield yourselves from the repercussions of decisions made on duty while defending the community. All it takes is one wrongful arrest, one accusation of excessive use of force, one sound minded and split-second decision, or even one misinterpreted post on any social media site has the potential to set the course for negative legal ramifications. Not to mention the explosive use of smart phones recording any action deemed by the public as misconduct. And I know that you have all seen it before; I simply do not want it to happen to any of you.

After reading the annual notice from the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) announcing an alarming monthly premium increase for your Legal Defense Fund (LDF) policy jumping from $23.50 to $38.75 per month, per member, effective July 1, 2013, your Directors and I set to work spending numerous hours as research hounds. As advocates for your protective policies and with you in mind, we looked at not only the reason behind the increase, but scoped out multiple alternatives. This included options to stay with PORAC but modifying our package and plan for a more comfortable rate, to multiple direct and flat-rate plans with a few law firms in Colorado (Bruno Lawyers included), to other national LEO-specific Legal Defense Plans offered throughout the country.

The result? An even better understanding that there is not a better coverage out there than what is currently in effect, and why I personally feel that in order to protect all of you from the damning potential of a litigious society, that the PORAC Plan 1 is by far the best. It is still the highest rated in the industry both in the capability of the attorneys provided, as well as the financial protection and peace of mind it gives our members. While push back on this rate increase has been fairly minimal, I still wanted to take the time to provide clarity and to respond to some frequently asked questions that have been asked over the course of the last month. Below are a few facts about our operational procedures as it relates to your coverage, as well as a brief breakdown of Plan 1, which covers duty-related criminal, civil, and administrative cases.

Why use an insurance firm, anyway?

As mentioned earlier, we live in a lawsuit-happy society. Even in “small” cases that might be brought against you, court cost, attorneys fees, witnesses, etc, can pile up to the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the blink of an eye.

PORAC currently has over 99,000 participants nation wide. And much like auto and health insurance, when the risk is spread out between participants, when and if you have a case that enters into the realm of financially unimaginable, with PORAC Plan 1, the funding would be available to fight it because there are no caps on benefits. (A comparative analysis on the alternative options can be found below.)

Because this is insurance, please know that you need to be covered with it before any incident happens. Just as you can’t get car insurance after a crash, any kind of civil, criminal, or administrative legal defense coverage cannot be retroactively sought and purchased.

Reason for Increase

For the ACSPP and other organizations alike, our premium is usage-rated and reviewed annually by the PORAC’s Board of Trustees. In the seven years that the ACSPP has had PORAC, last year the usage in coverage was increased by 150% from previous years. The sting of having to recoup that cost is the resulting increase in premium per member.

Monthly Dues Payment

Your premium for the LDF coverage that you pay for each month, now $38.75, along with membership rate any other insurances or fees, is strictly pass through. The ACSPP has no financial gain from any kind of increase, and our administrative office is fiducially responsible for securing and safeguarding this portion of your dues to pay PORAC directly. The membership rate for the ACSPP has not changed in almost eight years, and the plan for now is to keep it that way.

PORAC PLAN 1 INFORMATION

Caps on Benefits

As a participant with the premium, there are no caps in benefits. This equates to financial peace of mind.

Legal Representation

#1 Police Labor Firm in the State of Colorado – Bruno, Colin, & Lowe, P.C. (http://www.brunolawyers.com) is the first-in-line firm offered to members who have PORAC. For conflict cases, there are other approved firms available.

24-7 Coverage, 365 Days a Year

No matter the time of day or day of week, when you call PORAC, you get a live person and start the consulting process.

Privacy and Confidentiality

This is your personal policy as an ACSPP Member. Any and all communication that you have with PORAC and your assigned representation thereafter regarding legal consultation remains strictly confidential between you and your appointed attorney or case manager. There is no kind of involvement with the ACSPP in terms of approval or restrictions. The ACSPP Administrator is notified with names, dates and times of contact per member, but nothing more. And I believe that this is only to let us know that the product is being used.

Administrative Discipline (act or omission within the scope of employment)

Representation in cases arising from an act or omission within the scope of employment through the administrative process (non-scope administrative coverage provided through Due Process Hearing).

Note: this coverage is key; many times cases that have started as criminal or civil end up as an administrative disciplinary action.

Criminal (act or omission within the scope of employment)

Full representation by an experienced criminal attorney from the outset of the investigation through trial. This benefit is available no matter which agency does the investigation: Local, State, Federal, FBI.

Civil (act or omission within the scope of employment)

Representation by an experienced civil litigation. Coverage continues until you have no exposure to damages. And representation is for defense of actions filed in State or Federal Court.

Customary and Usual Services

Investigators, Expert Witnesses, Polygraphists, Court Reporters, Court Costs

Conflict Coverage

Each member gets separate counsel. In researching alternative legal defense options, I found a recurring gap in protection when it comes to multiple-party incidents. Other alternatives, such as flat-rate plans through one firm, offered coverage to only ONE member per incident. Under Plan 1, In the event that more than one officer is on scene and needs representation, each party is covered.

Comparison and Analysis to other Legal Defense Options:

There were eight different options that were compared and reviewed in an effort to see what might be a better alternative to our members. Here’s a very brief overview of the comparisons:

Flat-rate agreements/direct contracts with law firms:

Pros:
-Per member monthly premium cost-savings

Cons:
-Caps on benefits.
-No conflict coverage. In the event that more than one member was tangled up in the same incident, only one would be covered.

Note: I was surprised to hear from the attorneys who would benefit more so from a direct flat fee contact relationship, all say that in terms of your peace of mind, your representation, and your interest at heart, the PORAC Plan 1 is still the best way to go.

Remaining with PORAC, but opting for a reduced and lower-cost Plan:

Pros:
-Per member monthly premium cost-savings

Cons:
-Caps on benefits.
-Inability to change back to Plan 1 for some time
-Any and all pending and current cases that were being held would have ceased coverage, resulting in out-of-pocket cost to the member.

Other nationally-provided law enforcement-specific legal defense plans:

After repeatedly reading the word “caps on benefits,” I stopped looking into them.

The ACSPP wants the best for you all. If the saying “you get what you pay for” is true, I’d rather have the best option available than a poor alternative. It’s my wish that you do not have to use this coverage in your career, but in the event that you do, I’d rather that you have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. And while it’s true that your coverage may or may not actually save and retain your employment status for whatever reason, at the very least it could save your personal fiscal future.

So until the sticker shock of a rate increase has subsided, keep in mind and know that the additional $183.00 in premium that it amounts to over the course of the coming twelve months is much lower than paying out of pocket for costly legal services that could leave you with the potential of financial ruins.

As always, I’m always here for you if you have questions. I can never say thank you enough for all that you do for the CSP and the State of Colorado, and I’m always honored to aid in representing you!

However, I also understand that if this coverage is not something that you are interested in having any longer, please email me at LaurelG@acspp.net indicating that you no longer want that portion of the membership, and please fill out this LDF Declination Form and return it to me ASAP to stop the Legal Defense premium, and I’ll remove you from that roster and readjust your monthly rate.

Sincerely, and on behalf of your ACSPP Board of Directors,

Laurel

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