US Cities (and Taxpayers) Paying Millions in Police Misconduct Settlements

Chicago alone has paid out $450 million in the last 10 years.

November 17, 2014, 1:07 PM

— -- When a Chicago police officer was caught brutally beating a female bartender in 2007, the city paid her $850,000.

Another officer shot a man in the back while he was on the ground and was later found to be unarmed. That payout cost the city $4 million.

Now, police Cmdr. Glenn Evans faces criminal charges for allegedly sticking a gun down the throat of a man he mistakenly accused of hiding a gun.

"They took the gun, put it down my throat,” alleged victim Ricky Williams said in a videotape provided by his attorney. "The things that they did they should get punished for."

Evans, a highly decorated officer, has been the subject of more than 40 misconduct complaints.

None of the previous claims have been proven, but Evans is now on desk duty awaiting trial. So far he has cost taxpayers $300,000 in settlements.

And these expensive burdens on taxpayers happen all over the nation.

In Philadelphia, more than $40 million in police misconduct settlements have been paid out in the last five years. New York City paid out $428 million in the same period, according to data obtained by MuckRock, an organization that advocates for open, transparent government records.

A Baltimore Sun investigation found the city had paid $11.5 million in the last four years. In Los Angeles, the amount totaled $54 million for claims just in 2011.

In Chicago, where the city had to float $100 million worth of bonds to help pay for police settlements related to abuse, the Chicago Sun Times found the city had paid out $450 million in the last decade with much of it due to repeat alleged abusers.

And many, like the commander, are still on the job.

Evans was stripped of his police duties and moved to a desk job, pending the outcome of criminal charges that include two counts of aggravated battery and seven counts of official misconduct, which are all felonies. Prosecutors in Chicago want to present evidence of previous cases of misconduct against Evans in the current case.

"What it signals to me and to most defense attorneys is their main case is weak, so they're trying to bolster it with other stuff," said Evans' attorney, Laura Morask. ABC News requested multiple times for an interview with the police superintendent, but was denied.

When ABC News approached Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to question the refusal to sit down for an interview, he replied: "Are you kidding me?"

He then walked away and would not comment on why he had not only kept Evans on the job after the latest criminal allegations of misconduct, but had even promoted him to district commander in spite of the dozens of abuse allegations leveled at him while he was still a lieutenant.

During a September news conference, after allegations against Evans had surfaced, McCarthy had said: "If the allegations are true, it's reprehensible."

"But Cmdr. Evans is entitled to due process just like every other citizen in the United States of America. I hope that that's kept in mind," McCarthy said.

"It's almost as if they make an effort not to connect the dots, rather than turn the information they have into knowledge that they could use to identify that relatively small number (of officers) but still significant in their impact," said Jamie Kalven, with the Invisible Institute, a Chicago-based journalistic production that works to increase awareness of controversial issues.

"You have complaint after complaint after complaint alleging behavior in the very pattern they were ultimately convicted of -- and no action was taken," Kalven said. "They don't connect the dots and then intervene."

The Chicago City Council Finance Chairman Ed Burke, who approved the settlements, said he was frustrated too.

"I've asked repeatedly about why there has not been discipline meted out to some of these officers we have spent large amounts. I don't know that I've had or that the members of the council have been satisfied with the responses to those questions,” Burke told ABC News.

In a statement to ABC News, the Chicago Police Department said:

"Community policing and fostering stronger relationships with residents and the communities we all serve is the foundation of our policing philosophy. Over the last three years, Chicago has made it a priority to improve trust and cooperation between the Chicago Police Department and we have become a positive national and international model for preventing police misconduct and investigating allegations.

"As soon as we were made aware of the charges Commander Evans was relieved of his police powers, pending the outcome of this matter. We take the charges very seriously. The alleged actions that led to Glenn Evans' arrest, if true, are deeply disturbing. They have no place in our city and are not reflective of the actions and values of the men and women who serve in the Police Department."

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