Follow the money! There is a major incentive for city police departments and city officials to not want to admit to any systemic wrongdoing by law enforcement officials, which explains in part the motivation behind their strong denials of any police abuse without overwhelming and absolute evidence.
It costs cities huge sums of monies to settle the lawsuits brought on by those who have been brutally and unfairly treated by police. Because of the many years of victims being tortured at the hands of police, the City of Chicago has paid out enormous funds to settle claims. Ultimately it is the taxpayers who are the ones footing this huge expense. The city (Cook County) already charges 8% sales tax which is higher than any other Illinois county.
The monies spent on paying out law suits takes away from being able to fund other services such as education, parks, infrastructure improvements. There is only so much of a tax increase that the locals will tolerate before they start wanting the scalps of their elected officials.
The common sense solution would be to reform the culture within the Chicago PD to where police use of excessive force and abusive behaviors towards suspects is absolutely not tolerated. This would reduce the amount of monies that the city pays out to settle law suits so that the taxpayer monies are better allocated.
Officials avoidance of facing serious systemic dysfunctions within the ranks is not a solution but rather, it is reflective of a lack in true leadership. Leadership could make a decision that focusing on major constructive police reform is a major priority towards reducing law suit settlement outlays. This would provide the collateral benefits of lowering the numbers of police fatalities and serious injuries; lowering the numbers of police having their lives ruined by bad publicity; lowering the numbers of civilian deaths and serious injuries at the hands of police that were preventable; increasing the trust level from the community residents and businesses.
My concern is that city officials could be seduced by right wing supposedly easier solutions by which there are few winners.
For example, there is a Fall 2011 report, titled “Chicago: “The City that Settles” by “Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch,” a group sponsored by a right wing foundation, American Justice Partnership Foundation 2008.
Their contentions are as follows:
“In 2009, the Chicago Police Department and the City’s Corporate Counsel department made the decision to adopt a new policy of fighting and no longer quickly settling law suits filed against the Chicago PD…And that aggressive, common sense policy worked. According to a report that the City’s Law Department submitted…the number of lawsuits filed against the Chicago PD has dropped 50% from 2009 to 2010.”
“It is encouraging that Mayor Emanuel’s hand picked corporate counsel is looking to cut litigation costs…Chicago can serve notice that it is no longer an easy mark for aggressive plaintiffs and personal injury lawyers and can shed its budget busting reputation as “The City That Settles.”
The right wing message endorsed in part by the Chamber of Commerce could be viewed as a tempting easy, silver bullet tactic to city officials when it is nothing but “fools gold.” It could cause the police department to play hard ball by avoiding any admission of wrongdoing at all costs, or it could be the city deciding that it would cost more money to take the case to court and then, settling even frivolous claims.
In theory, the cost of these lawsuits are intended to inspire better oversight, better government, and better policing. The hope is that when taxpayers see millions of their hard-earned money being spent to compensate victims of police misconduct, they will vote for political leaders who will hold cops more accountable. So far, in the City of Chicago, this issue has had little impact in local elections.
Radley Balko of the Washington Post wrote an article on this issue, titled, ” U.S. Cities Pay Out Millions To Settle Police Lawsuits” on 10/1/14 and the following are some excerpts:
“The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this year that the city has paid out nearly half a billion dollars in settlements over the past decade, and spent $84.6 million in fees, settlements, and awards last year. Bloomberg News reported that in 2011, Los Angeles paid out $54 million, while New York paid out a whopping $735 million, although those figures include negligence and other claims unrelated to police abuse. Oakland Police Beat reported in April that the city had paid out $74 million to settle 417 lawsuits since 1990. That’s a little more than $3 million per year. The Denver Post reported in August, that the Mile High City paid $13 million over 10 years. The Dallas Morning News reported in May that the city has forked over $6 million since 2011. And last month, Minneapolis Public Radio put that city’s payout at $21 million since 2003.”
(Example of problems with capping law suit settlements v city) “A Major Investigation by the Baltimore Sun:
On a cold January afternoon, Jerriel Lyles parked his car in front of the P&J Carry Out on East Monument Street and darted inside to buy some food. After paying for a box of chicken, he noticed a big guy in jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap.
“What’s up?” the man said to Lyles. Others, also dressed in jeans and hoodies, blocked the door to the street — making Lyles fear that he would be robbed. Instead, the man identified himself a police officer, frisked Lyles and demanded he sit on the greasy floor. Lyles objected.
“The officer hit me so hard it felt like his radio was in his hand,” Lyles testified about the 2009 incident, after suing Detective David Greene. “The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”
The Baltimore detective offered a different version of events in court, saying that Lyles’ injuries might have resulted from poking himself in the face. He also couldn’t say why officers stopped Lyles, who was not charged with any crime.
But jurors didn’t buy the officer’s explanation. They ruled in Lyles’ favor, and the court ultimately ordered the city to pay him $200,000, the statutory limit in Maryland for most lawsuits against a municipality . . .
Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.
Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.
And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims — if charges were filed at all.
The city has spent $5.7 million on settlements and awards, and another $5.8 million in legal fees. Were it not for the statutory limit (which frankly seems both low and unfair), the former figure would likely be a lot higher.”
Rahm Emanuel is the wrong person for Chicago – Daily Kos m.dailykos.com/stories/2010/11/15/920512/-.html Nov 15, 2010 – There is no love lost between the two men. … Inside Obama’s West Wing, Emanuel’s hostility toward Holder has become so pitched at times