U.S. Taxpayers Have Paid More Than $1 Billion In Settlements For Bad Policing Practices Since 2010


Written by Nikki Igbo

This past Wednesday, Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha received a payout of $4 million from the city of New York to settle a police brutality civil suit. In April 2015, Sefolosha suffered a potentially career-ending leg break at the hands of a police officer during an arrest outside of the 10AK nightclub in New York.

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Sefolosha joins a long national list police brutality victims who have received thousands, if not millions, of dollars in settlements awarded by the cities in which the misconduct occurred. In Austin, TX, the city council paid $3.25 million to the family of David Joseph, an African-American teenager who was naked and unarmed when he was fatally shot by police. The city of Baltimore paid $6.4 million to the family of Freddie Gray, an African-American man who was unarmed and shackled when his neck was broken in a police van.
Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha
The city of Cleveland paid $6 million to the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American child who was in possession of a toy gun when he was fatally shot by police. The city of San Jose paid a $525,000 to Dawit Alemayehu, an Ethiopian immigrant who suffered brain damage after an officer handcuffed him and dropped his head to the ground. I could write tomes on the victims and payouts alone. In the majority of such cases, the officers involved admitted to no wrongdoing and often remained on the force.

According to a 2015 report by the Wall Street Journal, American taxpayers have paid more than $1 billion since 2010 in settlements for bad policing practices: the 10 cities with the largest police departments shelling out a combined $248.7 million in 2014 alone. In New York City, for instance, the city disbursed $228.5 million on judgments in police misconduct lawsuits for the fiscal year 2016 costing each New Yorker about $27 and equaling $28.7 million more than the $220 million New York State allocated to the city to fight homelessness.

It appears that, for people of color, although victims can expect little in the way of punishment for the offending officer, getting killed or abused by their local police force is a lucrative alternative to playing their state’s lottery.

Cities across America regularly set aside a portion of tax revenue for various lawsuits against their governments including those regarding police misconduct. Taxpayers, after catching word of these huge settlements, are supposed to vote to replace city officials with those who will be more vigilant in preventing their police department’s use of excessive force. Of course, that is not happening.

I’d personally love to see taxpayers demand that their hard-earned money be put to better use for better police training on cultural sensitivity, Constitutional law and how to properly deescalate a potentially violent encounters. According to Pepsi, perhaps taxpayers should ask city officials to use the lawsuit settlement funds to purchase bottomless supplies of the sugary carbonated beverage for their police force along with a stipend for a team of young, pretty, fair-skinned models from wealthy families to deliver said drinks.

Maybe cities could fund independent, impartial commissions to investigate these police misconduct cases instead of relying on internal investigators and grand juries who will undoubtedly let these officers off the hook and back onto the street. With all the money flying around in civil suits, again over $1 billion, the possibilities are endless.

But I won’t hold my breath.
Photograph by Daniel Glustoker/AP for Panini
In the meantime, I'm sure Colin Kaepernik will keep peacefully protesting and using his own athletically-earned millions for goodwill as long as some cop doesn't come along and break his leg for nothing. And so many rightfully concerned blacks across the country will continue to spread the gospel of Black Lives Matter in whatever way they can because the news will undoubtedly keep providing both with plenty of reasons to do so.

According to the Washington Post, as of writing this post, 271 people have been fatally shot by the police this year. Admittedly, the majority, 124, of those victims were white which is almost half and is fairly proportional to the 63% of Americans who are white. But African-Americans made up the next highest amount of victims at 69 which is 20% of those killed and is proportionally excessive to the 13.2% of Americans who are black.

Perhaps, once those families get their settlement money, they’ll be able to fund some sort of reasonable, life-saving solution.
Nikki Igbo is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and political junkie. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Political Science from California State University at Fullerton and a Masters in Fine Arts of Writing at Savannah College of Art and Design. When not staring in disbelief at the antics unfolding on CSPAN, she enjoys philosophical arguments with her husband, 70's era music and any excuse to craft with glitter. Feel free to check out her freelance services at nikigbo.com and stalk her on twitter @nikigbo or Instagram at @nikigbo.

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