Chicago does little to control police misconduct – or its costs
A very interesting article by Jonah Newman in the Chicago Reporter:
The stories behind Chicago’s police settlements often begin in ordinary moments. Riding a bike. Attending a barbecue. Watching TV.
They often end in extraordinary circumstances, according to the lawsuits. An 11-year-old with a gun placed at her temple. A grandmother arrested for battery to a police officer. A young man shocked unconscious by a Taser.
Most of these cases conclude as they occurred – outside of the public glare. People know about the high-profile police shootings of civilians and the multimillion-dollar settlements that result. But most cases are lesser known and settle for far less. Half of all cases paid out $36,000 or less, but they also contribute to a mounting taxpayer bill that goes largely unchecked by the mayor or City Council.
The City of Chicago spent more than $210 million for police misconduct lawsuits from 2012 to 2015, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis. It spent almost $53 million more on outside attorneys to litigate the cases. The Police Department exceeded its annual budget for lawsuits by almost $50 million, on average, in each of those years.
Yet, unlike some other major cities, Chicago doesn’t analyze the lawsuits for trends, identify the officers most frequently sued, or determine ways to reduce both the cost of the cases and officer misconduct.
Rather than rein in the practices that lead to these settlements, officials have borrowed millions to pay for police lawsuits, adding to the city’s crippling debt. Over time, the interest on the bonds will more than double the cost for police misconduct.
Some findings confirm public perceptions about policing. Latinos and blacks are disproportionately represented in the lawsuits. More than half the lawsuits allege false arrest. A tiny cohort of officers are defendants in multiple lawsuits.
But other patterns gleaned from the lawsuits indicate that police misconduct extends beyond a few “bad apples” to department-wide practices. . .