The misconduct of more than 7,600 police officers — from Portland, Or., to Milwaukee to Baltimore — has more than once led to payouts to resolve lawsuits and claims of wrongdoing, finds a Washington Post investigation. The newspaper 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. The investigation identifies the officers behind the payments. Data were assembled from public records filed with financial and police departments, excluding payments under $1,000. The totals confirm the broad costs associated with police misconduct, as reported by FiveThirtyEight and the Marshall Project.
The probe found that more than 1,200 officers in the departments surveyed had been the subject of at least five payments. More than 200 had 10 or more. The repetition is the hidden cost of misconduct: Officers whose conduct was at issue in more than one payment accounted for more than $1.5 billion, or nearly half of the money spent to resolve allegations. In some cities, officers repeatedly named in misconduct claims accounted for a larger share. In Chicago, officers who were subject to more than one paid claim accounted for more than $380 million of nearly $528 million in payments. The typical payout for cases involving officers with multiple claims — ranging from illegal search and seizure to use of excessive force — was $10,000 higher than those involving other officers. Few cities or counties track claims by the names of the officers — meaning that officials may be unaware of officers whose misconduct is repeatedly costing taxpayers. "Transparency is what needs to be in place,” said Frank Straub of the National Police Foundation’s Center for Mass Violence Response Studies, whose organization calls for departments to publicize cases with settlements.