A report posted at abc7news.com recently explored the high costs of police misconduct — such as brutality, riding roughshod over civilian rights, using excessive force, making false arrests, and violating people’s civil rights. The cost of settling police misconduct lawsuits ran over $300 million in fiscal 2019.
Taxpayers bear the costs of police misconduct. New York City paid $175.9 million in 2019, but the scope of the problem extends beyond financial costs. There is a tacit admission that money makes the problems go away. Los Angeles reported that 539 of a total of 606 lawsuits against the city in fiscal 2018-2019 were filed against officers in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.
The Broad Impact of Police Misconduct
Police misconduct varies in frequency and scale tremendously between jurisdictions. Cities face hundreds of misconduct charges and lawsuits — some more than others –, and it’s not 100 percent clear whether fewer lawsuits mean fewer instances of misconduct.
The costs of settling cases depend on where you live and other factors, but police violence is clearly not limited to big cities. According to npr.org, payouts can turn into multimillion-dollar settlements, but a surprising number settle for a few thousand dollars.
Although city and county budgets pay for those settlements or verdicts when the case goes to trial, sometimes, the causes of the lawsuits and settlement details are kept secret from taxpayers by confidentiality agreements.
A Tale of Two Cities
Houston and Philadelphia have similar populations with similar-sized police departments. A two-year study revealed that Houston cops were more often disciplined than Philadelphia officers, but they also killed more people in the line of duty. However, Philadelphia citizens filed ten times as many lawsuits and were awarded 100 times bigger judgments than their Houston counterparts.
The explanation for the differences lies in the local judicial systems, lawyers’ ability to file lawsuits more easily, and even how easily some judges can be bribed. Some municipalities limit the types of claims civilians can make. The number of attorneys who are willing to file police misconduct charges also makes a difference.
Paying Attention to the Wider Issues
Cities all over the country are willing to pay these settlements to avoid increased public scrutiny over the problem of police corruption and misconduct. According to bloomberg.com, cities spend millions and expect taxpayers to cover the costs. Damages from recent uprisings in Minneapolis and other jurisdictions are likely to add untold millions of dollars to taxpayers’ settlement costs.
Cities across the country should be paying their undivided attention to these issues because the effects of the pandemic, economic downturn, social unrest, and police violence are likely to escalate. There’s little to be done to safeguard against disease or a natural disaster, but cities can cut police misconduct costs by laying down the law, prosecuting misconduct more vigorously, and training police officers more thoroughly.
America’s cities are actually supporting police misconduct with financial protection. By pushing the costs to the back end, cities and counties are the ones to pay after the police have killed someone unjustly or violated a person’s civil rights. So, it makes sense to channel some of that money into proactive, preventative measures to reduce police misconduct instances throughout the country.
What to Do When Police Misconduct Harms You
Dealing with police misconduct can be frightening but standing up for your rights is essential. Contacting the right legal team is the first step, and a team like The Cochran Firm has both the experience and skills to see that police misconduct does not go unpunished. The firm specializes in police brutality and other forms of misconduct and handles cases across the country.