We all get the bill for police brutality


Click to enlargePat Vasquez-Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal

The death of James Boyd in Albuquerque

The cost of resolving police-misconduct cases has surged for big U.S. cities in recent years, even before the current wave of scrutiny faced by law-enforcement over tactics.

The 10 cities with the largest police departments paid out $248.7 million last year in settlements and court judgments in police-misconduct cases, up 48% from $168.3 million in 2010…

Those cities collectively paid out $1.02 billion over those five years in such cases, which include alleged beatings, shootings and wrongful imprisonment. When claims related to car collisions, property damage and other police incidents are included, the total rose to more than $1.4 billion…

City officials and others say the large payouts stem not just from new cases, but from efforts to resolve decades-old police scandals. In 2013 and 2014, for example, Chicago paid more than $60 million in cases where people were wrongfully imprisoned decades ago because of alleged police misconduct.

For some cities, the data show that cases have gotten more expensive to resolve. Philadelphia police have faced criticism for numerous shootings in recent years. Last year, the city settled 10 shooting cases for an average of $536,500 each. In 2010, it settled eight for an average of $156,937. A city lawyer attributes the rise to a few large settlements, not a pattern of questionable shootings…

The rationales for increased costs – coming from police departments and city lawyers – IMHO are crap. Covering their pasty butts, trying to hide from responsibility.

For most of the police departments surveyed by the Journal, the costliest claims were allegations of civil-rights violations and other misconduct, followed by payouts on car collisions involving the police. Misconduct cases were the costliest for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas and Baltimore…

The data don’t indicate whether cities are settling such claims more quickly, but some recent cases suggest that might be happening, especially in cases involving video.

In April, less than two weeks after a news helicopter captured video of sheriff’s deputies in San Bernardino County, Calif., kicking and beating Francis Pusok , the county reached a $650,000 settlement with him. Mr. Pusok had been trying to escape from the deputies on a horse he allegedly stole. He hadn’t filed a lawsuit at the time of the settlement and still faces charges.

“They wanted this to go away fast,” says Sharon Brunner, a lawyer for Mr. Pusok, who is fighting the charges. A spokesman for the county said the quick payout was made to avoid costly litigation…

The same is true of New York City under their new mayor, Bill de Blasio.

Not all the departments surveyed showed an increase in misconduct payouts. Phoenix, Los Angeles and Baltimore, for example, showed declines. But insurers and lawyers who defend police say current scrutiny of law enforcement is broadly affecting the resolution of lawsuits.

According to Joanna Schwartz’s study at UCLA, which tabulated civil-rights payouts in 44 large police and sheriff departments from 2006 through 2011, Albuquerque, NM, paid out the most per officer—more than $2,000 a year over that time…

Last October, the city agreed to change how its officers use force in a settlement it reached with the Justice Department, which said it found a widespread pattern of excessive and sometimes lethal force by officers.

Albuquerque officials say the city has been bracing for more settlements and has had to allocate funding it could have spent on raises for employees, parks and other municipal projects to cover the payouts in police cases.

There’s no magic source of blue money to cover increased costs from police department screw-ups. Every ounce of social corruption – from racism, contempt for civilians, ignorance of citizens’ rights, disrespect for constitutional protection – adds up as a charge against the whole budget for every municipality.

You and I get the bill.

2 thoughts on “We all get the bill for police brutality

  1. John Q. says:

    In two separate cases, two police officers in Georgia and two police officers in New Mexico were each charged with murdering a man that they had already surrounded and subdued. In East Point, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, two officers were charged with murder, aggravated assault, manslaughter, and six counts of violating their oath of office in the death of Gregory Towns, a 24-year-old father. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/crime-law/two-former-east-point-officers-indicted-for-murder/nnMDf/ Indictments have also been issued for two Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officers who shot and killed James Boyd, a mentally ill homeless man. http://www.koat.com/news/closing-arguments-begin-in-james-boyd-case/34777938 (includes videos and links to additional information). The City of Albuquerque has already reached a $5 million wrongful death settlement with the family of James Boyd.

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