Police Misconduct Cases Soar, Costing Big Cities Millions

July 16, 2015  |  


On Monday, the New York Police Department reached a $5.9 million settlement in the case of Eric Garner who killed last year after being placed in a police choke hold. With police misconduct running rampant, more and more big city police departments are depleting city funds.

Last year, the 10 U.S. cities with the largest police departments paid out $248.7 million in settlements and court judgments due to police misconduct cases. This number is up almost 50 percent from just four years prior in 2010 found The Wall Street Journal.


However, city officials claim that the high number is not solely based on new cases of police misconduct and instead includes payouts from decades-old resolved cases. Between 2013 and 2014, the Chicago Police Department paid more than $60 million in cases of alleged police misconduct.

Philadelphia is another city facing problematic numbers and criticism due to police shootings. In 2010, the city settled eight cases for an average of $156,937. However, last year the city faced 10 shooting cases that were settled for about $536,500 each.

The Journal surveyed a number of police departments and found that alleged civil rights violations and other misconduct were the costliest for cities. New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas face the most expensive misconduct cases.

In most cases, the possession of video will speed up the settlement cases with police departments hoping to quiet the situation before it goes public and into a trial. Last year, 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald was shot and killed by Chicago police who were responding to a call of car theft. The police stated McDonald lunged at them with a knife and was then shot and killed. However, video footage surfaced that showed the teen walking away from the police officer as he shot him 16 times. Before the family filed a lawsuit, the city offered a $5 million settlement in April.


The taxpayers are often the ones who actually foot the bill of these large settlements. Most major cities including New York and Los Angeles are self-insured, therefore the payouts are taken from city funds. According to a 2014 study done by UCLA law professor Joanna Schwartz it is extremely rare that officers are asked to pay out of their own pockets. Which means that money that could be spent on much-needed programs are going elsewhere.

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