Saturday, December 12, 2009

Police Departments Settle Out Of Court

Wrongful arrest $13.7M

Unlawful strip search $5K

Wrongful death $12.5M

Police brutality $48.7K

Taser death $2.4M

Political & religious discrimination $10K+$12K costs

Excessive force $100K

Failure to enforce a restraining order allowing murder $430K

Accidental shooting $127.5K

Police Brutality $100K

Mystery Payments of $700K

We don’t have enough money to adequately staff schools with teachers, and we can’t always fix our roads and bridges. Cities in the north don’t have enough sand and salt to keep the roads we have left safe to drive, and schools in the south can’t graduate half of their students with the ability to pass a literacy test, let alone a college entrance exam. Somehow though, we can afford to pay settlements to bail out cops who blindly abuse the citizens, the law, and our resources. Aren’t we tired of this yet? Would there be a money-saver available to us?

Maybe a civilian review board would help! (No surprise!) Cops cost more to bail out of trouble than the salary they are given. Of course, if cops are trained to protect each other no matter what, and let the citizen twist in the wind, the millions in settlement money paid out every year will continue to be a financial sink hole in every state’s budget.

As stated by the New York City law department:

"Settlements are generally business decisions," said Celeste Koeleveld, a senior lawyer in the Law Department. "We face enormous burdens and costs in litigation. As a result, the pressure to settle is big. It's not a sign that the case is meritorious."

But, as concluded by Jim Dwyer of the NY Times,

"Still, it is hard to understand why a Police Department that is about 12 percent smaller today than it was a decade ago should have 20 percent more claims. Perhaps better driver training is needed, or improved techniques for questioning witnesses and suspects, or more scrutiny of officers known to have bad tempers."

Clearly, as NYC proves, police abuse has been on the upswing since a decade ago, and with fewer cops, payouts per cop increase, and tax dollars per citizen dramatically increase. This trend is not sustainable.

Let’s not forget, the city of NY has a civilian review board. But look what it was able to do in cases where settlements take place---the same cops doing the same things, costing the public progressively more and more money. Meanwhile, the same cops, doing the same things, get raises every year because of police union requirements, again costing the public more and more money. This is a situation made not just of bad cops, but of bad cop culture. It is an insulated and cyclical system that is rotting from the inside. We must drain this wound, flush it out, and apply antibiotics, also known as a citizen review panel, with power and ability to tell the Chief what the people have determined to be police policy, not the other way around.

NYC Citizen Review Board---

· Begin with requiring all settlements to be accompanied with the PD admitting wrongdoing. The making of the payment says guilty, and the least the victim can expect is acknowledgement of the crime they suffered at the hand of their perpetrator.

· Place specific guilt on the cops involved, not just their PD, and adjudicate in fines and/or discharge. Incentive must be created.

· Put the burden on the Chief of making certain this does not happen again by requesting that Chief alter police policy. Leave the responsibility for daily cop behavior there, and to the citizen review board to judge it.

Folks, we have to attack this problem by dismantling Cop Culture. Only then will the cops we all need and want emerge, and the lack of respect citizens now experience be restored.

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