Meeting Report - June 9

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johnkarls
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Meeting Report - June 9

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Meeting Report – “Predict & Surveil: Data, Discretion & the Future of Policing” by Prof. Sarah Brayne – June 9


Usually no meeting report is prepared unless we are bombarded by inquiries about what happened.

[Indeed, our most-recent meeting reports had been for our Feb 2019 meeting on “Hunger in America” 28 months ago and our Jan 2021 meeting on “Civilization: The West and the Rest” which, inter alia, touched on the 2020 election – implying that meeting reports are less frequent than 10%.]

HOWEVER, a tidal-wave of inquiries has continued to pour in about our June 9 meeting.

Accordingly, following past practice Yours Truly has prepared the following report from his notes.

And each participant of the June 9 meeting is invited to post any additions/corrections s/he deems appropriate.


********************
Meeting Attendance & Qualifications To Approve a Six-Degrees-Of-Separation E-mail Campaign

By way of background, Section 1 of www.ReadingLiberally-SaltLake.org contains details of our 49 E-mail campaigns over our 15.5 years of existence to the nation’s (and, occasionally, the world’s) decision makers – MANY OF WHICH HAVE BEEN SURPRISINGLY EFFECTIVE.

A plethora of additional background information about each campaign is available by scrolling down past the first 8 sections of www.ReadingLiberally-SaltLake.org which are numbered, following which is a cluster of unnumbered sections relating to each meeting in reverse chronological order.

Our standards for approving an E-mail Campaign –

(1) In attendance at least 6 of our now-195 members (all of whom have received notice in our weekly e-mails); and

(2) No more than one dissent.

For our 6/9/2021 meeting, there were 8 members in attendance – 3 based in Utah and 5 participating from elsewhere around the country via Zoom.


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“Qualified Immunity” For Police Officers - The Impasse On U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s “Justice Act”

Section B of the Suggested Discussion Outline (available at viewtopic.php?f=643&t=2066&sid=774f68d2 ... bc3de4443a) reminded everyone that the Official Text of Sen. Tim Scott’s “Justice Act” and the Official Section-By-Section Analysis of Sen. Scott’s “Justice Act” were available in the “Reference Materials” Section for our 6/9/2021 meeting at viewtopic.php?f=641&t=2060&sid=0d854d63 ... 397616a2a2.

Sec. B of the Suggested Discussion Outline reminded everyone that the Suggested Answers to the Short Quiz addressed the issue of “qualified immunity” for police officers which has been, per the N.Y. Times, the major impediment to agreement between Sen. Scott and the Democrat negotiators --

Question B-4

Do news accounts report that the big “sticking point” between Democrats and Republicans is whether police should continue to have “qualified immunity” which requires most civil lawsuits to be filed against police departments rather than against individual police officers?

Answer B-4

Yes.

Question B-5

Do judges and prosecutors have “qualified immunity”?

Answer B-5

Yes.

Question B-6

Wouldn’t most economists (full disclosure – Yours Truly was an economics major for undergrad so he likes to think he knows something about economics) – say that, in theory, there isn’t much difference because if individual police officers are subject to a wider range of civil lawsuits, they will have to obtain insurance policies and police departments will have to raise salaries to cover the cost of the insurance policies in order to recruit/retain police officers?

Answer B-6

What do you think??? Let’s discuss!!!

Question B-7

Have the negotiations on federal police-reform legislation with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) been led for the Democrats by Rep. Karen Bass of California?

Answer B-7

Yes.

Question B-8

Did the NY Times report in a 3/4/2021 news article (“The House Passes A Policing Overhaul Bill Named For George Floyd, Whose Death Spurred Nationwide Protests”) that Rep. Karen Bass said on the occasion of this event that “There is tremendous good faith and good will between Sen. Scott and me”?

Answer B-8

Yes.

Question B-9

Nevertheless, did the same NY Times article report that Rep. Karen Bass “conceded that there had been a ‘loss in momentum’ in favor of an overhaul since last summer”?

Answer B-9

Yes.


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The Two “Black Balls” Blocking An E-mail Campaign Solving The “Qualified Immunity” Impasse

The issue could NOT have been more clearly stated in the Suggested Discussion Outline –

(1) All of the unrest in American cities following George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis 5/25/2020 could be solved with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s “Justice Act” BUT FOR THE STICKING POINT OF “QUALIFIED IMMUNITY” FOR POLICE OFFICERS.

(2) Judges and public prosecutors enjoy “qualified immunity” from most civil lawsuits.

[For example, a criminal defendant who is acquitted can NOT sue the prosecutor for defamation.]

(3) Similarly, police officers also enjoy “qualified immunity” from most civil lawsuits.

(4) If Sen. Scott’s “Justice Act” removed the “qualified immunity” for police officers, police departments would be forced to provide insurance covering the loss of “qualified immunity” in order to continue to retain their police officers and attract replacements as needed.

(5) Accordingly, the civil liability would go right back to where it began with plaintiffs having to sue, in effect, the same police departments that they must sue today.


*****
The 15-20 minute discussion of this issue featured Yours Truly making the following salient points –

Such insurance would be analogous to employer-provided health insurance pursuant to which the majority of Americans obtain their healthcare coverage because -

(1) Many, if not most, employers who provide such coverage will negotiate with an insurance company to provide the administrative services;

(2) HOWEVER many, if not most, such insurance arrangements are “retro rated” meaning that the employer’s premium is equal to the claims paid during the previous year + the insurance company’s administrative costs + an agreed profit which is usually a percentage of the administrative costs.

[NB: Yours Truly served as Texaco’s Senior Tax Counsel and Director of Worldwide Tax Planning 1974-1987 when Texaco was still a Fortune-Ten Company and can testify that this was the case for Texaco, the other three Aramco shareholders (Exxon, Chevron and Mobil), and for a good number of other companies (with no exceptions that I was aware of).]

(3) ACCORDINGLY, each of the nation’s police departments with TWO OR MORE police officers need only provide such coverage for its officers in order to restore the status quo ante.

(4) AS A FOOTNOTE, since insurance legally requires the “distribution of risk” within the pool of parties insured, such insurance to be valid would require the insurance of at least TWO POLICE OFFICERS – meaning that single-officer police departments would have to join with at least one other single-officer police department – just like an employer with only one employee would have to obtain health insurance that covers at least one employee of another employer.

(5) Since such insurance would be new, there MIGHT BE A QUESTION whether it is a TAX-EXEMPT “fringe benefit” to the employee such as employer-provided healthcare, etc., etc. Tax-exempt status could easily be provided in “The Justice Act.”

[The fact that QUALIFIED “fringe benefits” are TAX-EXEMPT for the employee while being DEDUCTIBLE for the employer is NOT an issue here since police departments are NON-TAXABLE governmental units and don’t need tax deductions.]

(6) BOTTOM LINE – such insurance provided to police officers by police departments WOULD RESTORE THE STATUS QUO ANTE unless anti-police politicians wanted to provide that such insurance is NOT tax exempt for the police officers.

[If so, they would simply be increasing the cost of policing as police departments have to increase salaries to cover police officers' personal income taxes on the value of the insurance (A STANDARD PRACTICE OF EMPLOYERS FOR KEEPING WHOLE EMPLOYEES FOR ANY NUMBER OF ITEMS WHICH ARE TAXABLE - A STANDARD PRACTICE KNOWN AS "GROSSING UP"). The cost of "grossing up" would be the economic equivalent of “defunding the police” if costs had remained constant rather than increased to cover the "gross up" – and pro-police politicians seem happy to argue the "defunding the police" issue.]


*****
Yours Truly is ASHAMED TO ADMIT that the principal opponent of this E-mail campaign was George Kunath who has always been described as “a former NYC partner with whom, for 33 years, I have had a weekly multi-hour gabfest about everything under the sun (politics, sports, religion, etc.) via Skpe in recent years -- George was our worldwide coordinating tax partner on Mobil Oil and on a major private-equity fund.”

As “the worldwide coordinating tax partner on Mobil Oil” George COULD NOT HAVE PERFORMED HIS RESPONSIBILITIES without agreeing with my salient points 1 through 6.

Nevertheless, he began voicing a long list of false “facts” – primarily alleging that employers can NOT provide valid insurance for which they effectively “self insure” as described above!!!

But also claiming the non sequitur that the failure to enact Sen. Scott’s “Justice Act” will prevent more unrest in American cities – WHEN IT SHOULD APPEAR INTUITIVELY OBVIOUS THAT THE EXACT OPPOSITE IS TRUE!!!

Unfortunately, George picked up as “a wing man” a first-time participant who is NOT an attorney and who spent his career at a commercial bank, apparently as a loan officer.

The “wing man” reinforced George’s argument that employers can NOT “self insure” in the manner that they in fact do, as described above – even though the “wing man” had no apparent expertise on the topic.

After the 15-20 minute discussion in which George and his “wing man” formed a “stone wall,” Yours Truly “threw in the towel” since we had virtually exhausted our two-hour meeting time.


*****
Another Issue For Sen. Scott’s “Justice Act”

Following the foregoing discussion of “qualified immunity,” another issue was proposed as the subject for an E-mail Campaign. It was proposed by a retired executive who is a member of the same Saturday Morning Men’s Breakfast Group at Baltusrol Country Club in NJ as George Kunath.

Unfortunately, my notes do NOT disclose the nature of this proposal though my memory is that it related to material in our focus book – “Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion & the Future of Policing” by Prof. Sarah Brayne.

However, in no time flat George Kunath and his “wing man” pounced on it and made clear they would “black ball” it as well.


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As mentioned at the outset of these notes, every participant of our June 9 meeting is invited to post any additions/corrections s/he deems appropriate.

Respectfully submitted,

John Karls

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