If you pick a bad parking space and your car is damaged in a police shootout, the city of Greensboro now has a policy to pay for that damage.

The Greensboro City Council at its regular virtual meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2, after much discussion, passed a policy by an 8-0 vote that will allow the city to pay for damage caused by the Police and Fire departments doing their jobs.

More specifically, the city will partially waive its governmental immunity in these specific instances.

City Attorney Chuck Watts explained that without this policy the city had no legal avenue to reimburse people for damage to their property unless negligence by city employees was involved.

Shots fired is a fairly simple example.  If someone shoots at Greensboro police officers, and they return fire., the officers are not being negligent – even if the bullets from their guns damage cars.  Because the officers were not negligent, the city not only had no responsibility to pay for the damage, the city could not legally pay for the damage.

With this policy, when police officers and firefighters damage property in the course of doing their jobs, the city can make some restitution to the property owners.

In accord with the continuing saga of keeping people, including councilmembers, in the dark for as long as possible, Councilmember Sharon Hightower said, “I really didn’t hear about this until it showed up.”

Later she said, “I don’t need to vote on something with no information.”

Hightower suggested she wants the city to go far beyond this narrowly defined exemption and that would like for the city to pay for the cost if a vehicle, for instance, hits a bad pothole in a city street and is damaged.

Chief Deputy City Attorney Al Andrews responded, “There is a budgetary impact you need to be mindful of.”

Currently the city would only be liable if the person whose property was damaged could prove negligence by the city, which is a fairly high threshold.  Streets develop potholes not through negligence but through the normal wear and tear on pavement. 

Watts said that if the City Council wanted his department to come up with such a policy it would do so.

Councilmember Michelle Kennedy was absent from the meeting.