The hidden billion-dollar cost of repeated police misconduct

The story notes that when police departments mention they are paying a cash settlement to a plaintiff who has made accusations of police misconduct, the departments typically don’t mention the name of officers involved.

On the one hand, this makes sense, since the settlements are often made with no admission of misconduct, so the officers aren’t proven guilty. On the other hand, the missing names means it’s hard for the public to keep track of which officers are single-handedly responsible for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars worth of taxpayer money being handed over to plaintiffs who allege police misconduct. 

The story also notes that convicts who are already behind bars have nothing to lose by filing misconduct lawsuits, and at least one officer who contributed to the story said he wished his city had gone to trial rather than offer the cash settlement. But for the most part, police officers who were contacted for this story either didn’t return calls or said they had no comment.

According to this story, a single officer’s actions led to 143 cash payments, 25 officers were responsible for 20+ different settlements each, about 3.5k were responsible for 3+ settlements each, and about 7.6k had at least 2.

More than $1.5 billion has been spent to settle claims of police misconduct on behalf of thousands of officers repeatedly accused of wrongdoing. Taxpayers are often in the dark.


Between 2010 and 2020, the city settled 10 claims involving Moore’s police work, paying more than $665,000 to individuals who alleged the officer used excessive force, made an illegal arrest or wrongfully searched a home.

Moore is among the more than 7,600 officers — from Portland, Ore., to Milwaukee to Baltimore — whose alleged misconduct has more than once led to payouts to resolve lawsuits and claims of wrongdoing, according to a Washington Post investigation. The Post collected data on nearly 40,000 payments at 25 of the nation’s largest police and sheriff’s departments within the past decade, documenting more than $3.2 billion spent to settle claims. Washington Post

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