Protester carrying sign about cops and justiceIf parts of the public aren’t incensed over rampant police brutality, maybe simple economics will sway them. All over the country, cities are going into debt and taxpayers are footing the bill for huge settlements given to victims of police brutality, or in the case of those killed by police, their survivors.

Not only are taxpayers paying the tab for police criminality, but the debt incurred by cities means that money isn’t going to public improvements that aid the lives of residents and their families. The debt, however, is helping Wall Street.

Police Brutality Bonds

You’re probably familiar with municipal bonds issued for infrastructure. These often tax-free vehicles are part of most people’s investment portfolios. Now there are police brutality bonds – although that’s not their official names.

Huge banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America profit from these bonds, along with smaller financial institutions. That’s because cities have become so crippled by the amount of money they must pay in settlements that they are forced to issue these bonds.

According to the Action Center on Race & the Economy (“ACRE”), these police brutality bonds can double the cost of a settlement. The group examined five cities – Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Lake County, Indiana – and estimated that these five cities bonded $837.8 million between 2008 and 2017, but paid a whopping $1.03 billion in interest during that time period! That ends up costing taxpayers $1.87 billion for taxpayers.

The bulk of the bonding involved Chicago, which bonded approximately 709.3 million and paid $1 billion in interest to investors. However, it’s not just larger cities that are affected. Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city with a population of less than 600,000, has spent more than $25 million in the past five years settling police misconduct and civil rights cases. The result is that the city cannot sufficiently fund infrastructure projects nor education expenses, to the serious detriment of its residents.

Settlements as Hush Money

ACRE alleges that police brutality bonds serve as official “hush money,” and prevent police officers and police departments from assuming any financial responsibility for the actions of their rogue members. ACRE recommends a different approach, which begins with permitting only banks willing to provide interest-free, no-fee loans for police misconduct settlements to do any sort of business with city government.

Second, ACRE wants cities to require individual police officers to take out individual liability insurance policies. Such policies would do more than cover the costs of misconduct settlements – they would protect taxpayers, and give police departments an incentive to stop bad behavior on the part of cops. It’s also a fair policy.

Why shouldn’t officers be involved in misconduct pay for the resulting settlement? ACRE also demands full transparency, so the public knows exactly who is responsible for these settlements, how the officers in question are held accountable, and who profits from the payments.

The Rise in Payments Correlates with the Rise in Video

Police misconduct is nothing new. Why then, has the cost of settlements risen so dramatically? It’s no coincidence that the rise in settlements and the proliferation of video are related. Little more than a decade ago, most people did not have video cameras on them 24/7.

Now, with smartphones, they do. Police officers also have dashcams in their vehicles and wear body cam recorders when responding to calls or stopping individuals. Misconduct is no longer the officer’s word against the victim’s, as the video shows us what really happened. With social media, such videos instantly go viral, and cities want to settle as quickly as possible.

Get It Right from the Beginning

One way cities can slow down or prevent these huge settlements is by making the right hiring decisions in the first place. That means careful and thorough screening of all candidates for law enforcement positions. Anyone with a questionable record simply does not get the job.

The number of bad cops isn’t large, but the bad ones that are out there do an incredible amount of damage, not just to their victims but to the perception of police officers. When cities make smart hiring decisions for law enforcement, it benefits everyone, especially taxpayers.

If you are the victim of unwarranted police violence, the civil rights lawyers at Tully & Weiss can help. Call Us at 925.229.9700 or Connect Online with an experienced civil rights lawyer right away as there are strict time limits when making compensation claims and/or filing a civil rights lawsuit against police, cities, or other agencies.