A group of 124 Chicago police officers has cost the city $34 million in misconduct settlements since 2009, according to a newspaper report.
While the officers represent a fraction of the police force’s roughly 12,000 officers, they are identified in nearly a third of the misconduct lawsuits settled since 2009. The Chicago Tribune reported one officer had seven lawsuits against him that were settled.
Unlike high-profile police brutality cases that have triggered federal investigations, most of the settlements involve less serious claims such as injuring arrestees during traffic stops, making false arrests and using racial slurs. The lawsuits have largely escaped City Council scrutiny because the settlements have been at or under $100,000. If they’re larger, aldermen must approve them.
Also, the Tribune found many of the incidents didn’t occur in high crime areas as union officials have argued and officers were rarely disciplined.
A Chicago police spokesman acknowledged it’s been a decades-old problem.
“There is no question the department needs to do a better job identifying officers with problematic behavior to hold them accountable and restore trust in the police,” Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Tribune.
He added that improving early intervention will be a focus of a new police accountability task force and U.S. Justice Department Investigation.
Federal authorities announced a civil rights investigation after the November release of a police video showing a white police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times in 2014.
The Tribune reports the vast majority of CPD officers, roughly 82 percent, aren’t named in any settlements.
Still, experts say the toll is greater than financial.
Defense attorney Terry Ekl, a former prosecutor, said that not punishing officers, even in less serious crimes, eats away at public trust in police, particularly in Chicago.