The City of Chicago paid $54.2 million in settlements and verdicts for police misconduct cases last year, including more than $9.5 million in attorneys’ fees, according to an analysis of city law department data by The Chicago Reporter.
That’s more than the budget for the offices of the mayor, the city treasurer, the city council, the council committees and the department of human resources – combined.
Police misconduct complaints include those alleging excessive force, extended detention, false arrest, failure to provide medical care, illegal search or seizure, malicious prosecution and wrongful conviction.
The vast majority of payments came from settlements, which usually do not require the city or police officers to admit wrongdoing. Only 9 of the 161 police misconduct cases in 2014 were the result of jury verdicts.
Many of those who received payments last year filed suits against the city years earlier, with one lawsuit going back as far as 2004.
The only year since 2008 when the city has paid more for police misconduct than last year was 2013, when verdicts for five of the torture victims of disgraced Commander Jon Burge were paid out, totaling $34.3 million. The total amount of police misconduct payouts that year was $81.3 million.
Police misconduct complaints accounted for just 15 percent of all cases brought against the city that were settled last year, but more than half of all payouts. In total, the city paid more than $95 million to settle cases against police, fire, transportation, water management and other departments. Many of the cases were for car accidents involving city vehicles.
Police misconduct cases cost the city more than three and a half times that of other city cases, on average, or about $335,000 per case. However, that figure was skewed because of a small number of payouts that were $1 million or more. The median settlement amount, where exactly half of the cases are more and half are less, is $35,550.
The $54.2 million in payments to victims and attorneys in 2014 doesn’t include the amount the city paid its own lawyers to defend against the cases, which often name both the city and specific police officers as defendants. An analysis by the People’s Law Office showed that Chicago paid nearly $63 million to 11 outside law firms to defend the city and its police officers against allegations of misconduct from 2003 to 2012, or an average of $7.1-million per year. The 57 lawyers in the city’s civil rights litigation division, which defend the city and police officers is misconduct cases, have a budget of $4.6 million this year.