PHILADELPHIA – City officials took out $250 million in insurance coverage ahead of the 2016 Democratic National Convention currently running in Philadelphia, and an attorney says it is probably a good thing the City took out an extra $5 million for coverage in lawsuits against law enforcement.
Democratic National Convention Signs in front of Philadelphia's City Hall
Warren A. Koshofer, a partner in Michelman & Robinson's Los Angeles office, says recent events and the presence of cell phones help to increase the likelihood that claims would fall under that law enforcement policy.
"The law enforcement policy that provides up to $5 million in coverage for potential claims for police officer errors and omissions while performing their professional duties is in addition to the $250 million in various general liability insurance that the DNC host committee has obtained," Koshofer said.
"The $250 million in general liability coverage excludes police liability, hence the city’s separate purchase of the $5 million policy."
The convention is being held in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center. Up to 50,000 delegates and participants are expected to flood into the convention and will be housed largely in 94 hotels in six transportation clusters throughout Philadelphia, Valley Forge and southern New Jersey, according to a DNC press release.
Security is high on the minds of DNC and city officials, and not just because of recent high-profile acts of violence, particularly those involving protesters and police. Party conventions have a long history of protests, political turmoil and sometimes violence.
During the 1964 Republican Convention in San Francisco, pandemonium broke out on the convention floor when moderates made an attempt to block Barry Goldwater's nomination.
DNC and Philadelphia officials may also be recalling the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, which was marked by violence between protesters and police.
One difference between then and now is how much more likely it is that a city or party could be sued over any number of incidents that might crop up, Koshofer said.
"Today’s environment of hard-fought and contentious elections, lingering law enforcement backlash and protests, and the advent of cell phones which record every interaction and post parts of them to social media – which is only partially kept in check by the city’s pilot body cam program where some of its police officers are equipped with body cameras – only enhances the likelihood of potential claims that would fall under a law enforcement policy," Koshofer said.
While the party and the city of Philadelphia are not promoting any issues that might spark litigation, there's an urgency to be prepared, Koshofer said. The law enforcement policy obtained by the city is especially important, Koshofer said.
"The type of claims that the law enforcement policy is designed to cover are ones where the city would likely be included as a defendant," Koshofer said. "By way of example, during the RNC hosted by Philadelphia in 2000, the city had a similar law enforcement policy in place."
Koshofer cited a recent Newsworks article, which recalled that Philadelphia police were kept very busy during the 2000 Republican National Convention. In those few days, Philadelphia police arrested about 400 protesters and the resulting 15 lawsuits ultimately were settled by the city for about $1.8 million, the article said.