People are holding posters following the verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of the death of George Floyd on April 20, 2021 outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
There is the human cost of police misconduct.
Unarmed black Americans are killed by police officers with appalling frequency. Police violence is a leading cause of death for young black men.
A year ago, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes and murdered him. During the entire chauvin process, at least 64 people across the country were killed by law enforcement agencies. More than half of them were black or Latinos.
There is also the social cost of police misconduct.
Many black Americans are scared when they see a police officer. Black parents have to “The Talk” with their children because of this fear. Don’t make sudden movements. Keep your hands at 10 and 2. Say “yes sir” and “yes ma’am”. When you reach for something – do it slowly, but not before you tell the cop what you are reaching for and ask him or her if it’s okay.
Both the human and social costs of police misconduct are inhuman and incalculable.
But there is also another type of cost: the economic cost of police misconduct. In particular, police officers and law enforcement agencies do not bear the brunt of these costs – taxpayers do.
Every year, taxpayers in cities and counties across the country pay hundreds of millions of dollars to resolve lawsuits filed in response to police misconduct. Lawsuits that are often secretly settled by the municipalities in order to quietly bury criticism and controversy. In many cases, the most costly of these lawsuits are those that involve violations of civil rights (e.g., excessive use of force) that result in injury or death to residents.
Every year, taxpayers in cities and counties across the country pay hundreds of millions of dollars to resolve lawsuits filed in response to police misconduct. Lawsuits that are often secretly settled by the municipalities in order to quietly bury criticism and controversy.
News organizations and national nonprofits have created databases over the years that track police wrongdoing. Usually, however, they can only track down allegations and not costs. It is time we had a national database that covers both. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. We need to measure the problem as much as possible so that we can manage it in a way that will save lives – the main goal – and tax money.
Our legislation – the Police Misconduct Costs Act (HR 1481 and p. 540) – would create such a database by requiring federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to report to the Department of Justice the amount they annually pay for Police misconduct judgments issue settlements (including court fees) and the number and type of police misconduct allegations they receive.
Typically, taxpayers pay for police misconduct convictions and settlements in three ways. If your municipality takes out liability insurance (typical for smaller municipalities), you pay it indirectly in the form of premiums. If your community uses money from a general or dedicated fund (typical of larger communities), they pay it directly. The same applies if your municipality issues a loan.
Bonds are particularly common in major judgments or settlements that exceed insurers’ liabilities or the capacity of general or dedicated funds, and often result in taxpayers paying nearly double as the city or county pays fees to financial institutions and interest to investors got to. A recent study found that from 2008 to 2017, Chicago, IL taxpayers (limited to 2010 to 2017); Cleveland, OH; Lake County, IN; Los Angeles, California; and Milwaukee, WI, paid a total of an estimated $ 1.73 billion in bonds and interest payments for police misconduct.
The money taxpayers spend on police misconduct has the potential to fund other community services, including those that are proven to prevent crime. In 1983, South Tucson, AZ went bankrupt following a police malpractice settlement.
In 2017, New Haven, CT, was forced to issue bonds on a bridge after funds for that bridge were used to pay for a police malpractice settlement.
In Minneapolis, taxpayers paid $ 27 million to settle Floyd’s murder and his family, one of the largest police misconduct settlements of all time. Because the payout was so high, Minneapolis had to use a combination of its general fund and auto insurance fund to cover the cost, the latter “having been marginalized in recent years for police misconduct, the Washington” contribution. Minneapolis’ budget for this year is roughly the same amount for health care ($ 28 million) as it is for this settlement.
In September last year, a billboard was installed in Times Square across from a New York Police Department (NYPD) station. The billboard read, “Hey NYPD. It’s us. NYC residents. Those who pay your wages. We paid $ 300 million to settle your lawsuits. You didn’t pay anything. We need to talk.”
The “conversation” NYC taxpayers have with the NYPD about how the department will reform to avoid costly wrongdoing is a conversation that taxpayers in cities and counties across the country must have with their police departments.
You cannot have this conversation if you do not have the data. Our bill would make sure they did.
The Democrat Don Beyer represents the 8th Congressional District of Virginia in the US House of Representatives. He is chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress.
Tim Kaine, a Democrat, represents Virginia in the US Senate. As a former civil rights attorney, mayor, and governor, Sen. Kaine has a long track record of supporting community policing.