Over the past decade, more than $3.2 billion has been spent by the nation’s 25 largest cities to settle police misconduct claims. More than $1.5 billion of that money went to settle the claims of repeat offenders.
While the alleged misconduct of 7,600 police officers is involved in the payouts, more than 1,200 of these officers were involved in at least five payouts. More than 200 officers were the subject of 10 or more payouts. The amount attributed to multiple offenders accounted for nearly half of all settlements.
In addition, payouts for officers with multiple claims were $10,000 higher than settlements involving single claims.
During these ten years, Philadelphia paid out $136 million in settlements. Nearly 60 percent of those settlements involved officers named in multiple payments. Detroit paid out $48 million, with 59 percent of officers named in multiple payments.
Chicago paid out $528 million, with a whopping 72 percent of officers named in multiple payments. In New York City, the amount paid out was $1.779 billion, with 46 percent involving officers named in multiple payments. Baltimore paid out 41 million, with 58 percent of officers named in multiple payments.
No Tracking of Repeat Offenders
Just who are these repeat offenders? It’s hard to say since cities do not tend to track their names. Taxpayers aren’t the only ones in the dark about officers whose behavior is causing repeated misconduct allegations. Public officials don’t know, either.
According to police departments, such tracking could result in defense attorneys using the information against the officer in a criminal case. The results would challenge the officer’s credibility, as per legal experts. That’s almost certainly true, but an officer with repeated claims against them has credibility problems.
Why Repeat Offenders Seldom Lose Their Jobs
Why do these repeat offenders rarely lose their jobs? The way these settlements are structured, there is no admission of guilt or wrongdoing. These are allegations, not disciplinary matters. Once the settlement is paid, an investigation seldom follows.
Some officers wish the city had not settled their cases, so they could fight the allegations in court. Some officers state that claims are often made up so that the accusers can get money. However, the costs of going to trial are enormous, so cities prefer to settle. There is also the possibility that the jury award would far surpass any settlement amount at trial.
In the private sector, most organizations would track the number of complaints. That would be taken into account during the employee’s performance review. That does not pertain to police departments.
Bad Cops Cost Money
While measuring the number of lawsuit settlements against multiple offenders is not a perfect index, it does provide a degree of objectivity. The bottom line is that bad cops cost taxpayers money, and those footing the bill for these settlements have the right to know who they are.
The bad apples are a small minority of police officers. Getting rid of them not only saves taxpayer dollars from settlements, but will reduce the number of incidents. Holding bad cops to account and removing them from jobs where they injure the public they have sworn to protect is a first step in reform.