The Chicago Reporter’s latest investigation reveals that despite high profile settlements like the $5 million awarded to the family of Laquan McDonald, Chicago settled more than half of police misconduct lawsuits between 2012 to 2015 for $36,000 or less.
According to the Reporter’s analysis of 655 police misconduct lawsuits, Chicago spent more than $210 million on these lawsuits during that period. The settlements are searchable in the news organization’s database, Settling for Misconduct.
Because the city borrows to pay these settlements, the interest increases their cost to taxpayers.
The stories behind the lawsuits include a grandmother arrested for battery, a little girl who had a gun placed at her temple and a young man who was shocked with a Taser.
The Reporter also delves deep into the night that a dozen police officers stormed the home of Alfonso and Patricia Cavada, who had just birthed the couple’s youngest son a month earlier and was recovering from a cesarean section.
The officers were looking for one of Patricia’s sons, who was not there. The couple was arrested and forced to leave two young children with relatives. The city ultimately settled with the Cavadas for $40,000 and legal fees.
Among the Reporter’s findings:
- In the small fraction of cases where officers and the city admit liability, the officers rarely are disciplined.
- Nearly half of the lawsuits claim that officers filed false reports – and sometimes committed perjury on the witness stand – to cover up their misconduct.
- More than one-quarter of lawsuits allege that two or more officers conspired to violate a person’s civil rights. Nearly one-third allege that some officers on the scene could have but didn’t intervene to prevent misconduct.
- In one-quarter of excessive force lawsuits, the person who alleged police abuse was charged with either resisting arrest or assault of a police officer.
- One in 10 cases involves minors. Officers have been accused of pointing guns at children, shooting at teenagers and leaving toddlers alone while their parents were arrested.
- Roughly 1 in 6 cases alleges that an incident is part of a pattern of misconduct, fortified by specific Police Department policies or the city’s general failure to adequately investigate officer misconduct. The city usually successfully argues to dismiss these claims, or to separate them from particular claims about the incident. That means the cases are rarely adjudicated.
Fernando Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @thefuturewasnow.