From small towns to big cities, the cost of police-misconduct cases has surged in the U.S. with taxpayers ultimately footing the bill. According to data obtained by The Wall Street Journal through public-record requests, the 10 cities with the largest police departments paid out $248.7 million last year in settlements and court judgements in police misconduct cases, up 48 percent from $168.3 million in 2010.
This surge in payouts stems not just from new cases as highlighted by New York City’s $5.9 million settlement with the estate of Eric Garner, who died last summer after being placed in a banned police chokehold, but also from past indiscretions as seen in the City of Chicago’s payout of more than $60 million in cases where people were wrongfully imprisoned for decades due to alleged police misconduct.
While big cities might be better equipped to deal with these payouts, taxpayers in smaller towns are more likely to feel the burden than their big city counterparts. Property taxes that might have been directed to infrastructure improvements and schools are now being spent on lawsuits and settlements claiming police misconduct. In fact, the suburban Detroit community of Inkster issued a one-time property tax assessment of nearly $200 to cover police brutality cases.
City governments, local police, and the U.S. legal system are all adjusting to the skyrocketing numbers and costs of police misconduct cases. Some of the consequences are ominous, but others give hope. Cities are paying more attention to municipal insurance, engaging in risk-management strategies, and creating police litigation units. On-officer and dashboard cameras are making it less likely that police misconduct incidents will go unnoticed. And, the dire financial costs of litigation are encouraging police departments to root out the “bad actors.”
Victims of rogue police still face an uphill battle against powerful cities and police departments, but the chances of victory in court have never been greater than today. At Romanucci & Blandin, we are staunch defenders of constitutional rights and have a demonstrated track record of fighting to curb excessive force by police. We do so with compassion for the victim, and a belief that justice must be served. If you believe you have suffered at the hands of the police, contact our Chicago Police Misconduct lawyers for a free consultation.