2020 was, by all standards, a tumultuous year. Riots and looting, along with a massive increase in shootings and violent crime, gripped many major cities across the nation. This happened, perhaps not coincidentally, in tandem with a major push in some of those cities to “defund the police,” a movement purportedly designed to rethink how police work is done, but  one that is turning out to have massive unintended consequences.

Well, unintended for many who advocated for it. Not all of us are surprised by what we are seeing.

One of the outcomes likely not considered appears to be a massive increase in workers’ compensation claims. A reporter researching the subject has discovered that the city of Minneapolis, one of the epicenters of violence and the defund movement, received claims worth $29 million in 2020. That was three times the average annual amount, and most of those claims, not surprisingly, are from police claiming PTSD benefits.

The city also saw a massive increase in liability claims, totaling more than $111 million for the year. Many of those claims were focused on incidents involving the police.

Last year the Minneapolis City Council voted to shift $8 million of police funding to community mental health and violence prevention resources. Minneapolis voters rejected a proposal in November to eliminate the police department altogether and replace it with a “Department of Public Safety.” While the Minneapolis Police budget was not cut as dramatically as in some other cities, all of the negative focus clearly had an effect on morale. The city is reported to be short some 300 officers, and thanks to the mental health presumptions granted by the Minnesota legislature, the city is seeing a soaring cost in workers’ compensation claims.

According to WorkCompResearch.com, Minnesota law says, “If, preceding the date of disablement or death, an employee who was employed on active duty as: a licensed police officer; a firefighter; a paramedic; an emergency medical technician; a licensed nurse employed to provide emergency medical services outside of a medical facility; a public safety dispatcher; an officer employed by the state or a political subdivision at a corrections, detention, or secure treatment facility; a sheriff or full-time deputy sheriff of any county; or a member of the Minnesota State Patrol is diagnosed with a mental impairment , and had not been diagnosed with the mental impairment previously, then the mental impairment is presumptively an occupational disease and will be presumed to have been due to the nature of employment.”

Queue the riots, otherwise known as “mostly peaceful protests,” and the hyper-focus on police actions in the city, and it is a recipe for a very expensive mess. When you really think about it, it represents a “perfect storm” of sorts. Turbulent social issues and unrest combined with automatic presumptions driven largely by (political) science mean that the citizens of Minneapolis will have a rather large tab that will need to be paid. The city is currently proposing a tax levy of 5.45% to help cover those costs. And they’ve only just entered the fray. Those numbers will likely only grow larger.

As with many things in workers’ compensation, the law of unintended consequences once again takes its toll.

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