Insurers make call on police damage

My question is about police activities that cause a large personal loss. I'm thinking of that California ex-cop who was in the mountain cabin that burned down, and more recently the deal where the (Boston) Marathon bomber was hiding in a boat and police shot it to pieces. Who pays for the damage and/or replacement? It seems like insurance policies have a lot of fine print exclusions for that stuff.

— John D., via email

We've seen enough buddy cop movies where the by-the-book officer goes on a collateral damage-filled ride to wonder the same thing, John. We checked with Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau, and you can rest assured that our officers are indeed insured.

"We do have insurance, obviously," Budreau said. "There has been occasions where we damaged property."

It's up to the insurance company to decide who gets a payout.

"As far as who pays for it, long story short, it's on a case-by-case basis," Budreau said. "It's ultimately up to the insurance company to make that call."

Examples of scenarios covered by insurance were less exciting than the headline-grabbing events mentioned in the question. They included holes in vehicles from stray bullets during shootouts and damaged fences following foot pursuits. While there are exceptions, a common factor was that these scenarios involved innocent bystanders.

"If there's criminal activity on the part of the plaintiff, it could reduce the likelihood of damages being covered."

Budreau said there's a form officers hand out on-scene for folks who have incurred damages from police activity.

One thing not covered by police insurance is damage to a stolen vehicle during an elude.

"That's generally something the vehicle owner's insurance would cover, not us." Budreau said. "That's usually a result of the suspect's actions."

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