Judgements, legal fees and settlements for police misconduct cases in Chicago — a city that suffers from billions of dollars in pension debt — have added up to payouts of $662 million since 2004, the Associated Press found from city records.
These payouts have stemmed from instances of petty harassment to reports of police torturing people. While the amount may be high, few officers who have been accused in these cases are actually disciplined. There were 28,500 misconduct complaints against police officers in Chicago between 2011 and 2015, but less than 2 percent resulted in disciplinary action.
“It's not that Chicago is overrun by bad or abusive police officers,” Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor, told the AP. “But here, a small percentage of officers has been allowed to abuse some of the most vulnerable Chicago residents with near-impunity.”
More attention has been paid Chicago police misconduct since the death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times and killed by a white Chicago police officer in 2014. His family alone got $5 million in a settlement. The death of McDonald — and the subsequent release of the video of his shooting — upended the Chicago police department, leading to the ousting of former police superintendent Garry McCarthy.
One of the biggest settlements came in the case of Eric Caine, a man who served more than 25 years in jail before being declared innocent. He sued the city and got a settlement of $10 million.
— ABC 7 Chicago (@ABC7Chicago) March 19, 2016
One lawyer who won more than 10 high-value misconduct verdicts in the last 10 years said jurors often know that police officers do “reprehensible things” in Chicago, but none of the officers he knew was ever punished. “Not only was nobody disciplined, nobody was asked any questions,” Lawyer Jon Loevy told the AP. Chicago police said that 45 people were fired as a result of misconduct allegations and 28 were suspended.