What If Cops, Not Taxpayers, Paid The Bill For Their Bad Behavior?

Cops are lucky they're not footing the bill for legal settlements over police misconduct

Sep 08, 2015 at 3:10 PM ET

The city of Baltimore has reportedly agreed to pay the family of Freddie Gray—whose controversial death while in police custody sent the city into chaos earlier this year—$6.4 million to settle a lawsuit the family filed against the city and its police department. The payout is one of the largest settlements for a police misconduct lawsuit in the city’s history and the figure is consistent with the recent spike in the amount of money these types of lawsuits cost taxpayers. Luckily for police officers, taxpayers are footing the bill—because if cops had to pay the tab for these settlements out of pocket it would cost many of them thousands of dollars.

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Vocativ looked at data for the amount of money the 10 biggest city law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have spent to settle police misconduct lawsuits between 2010 and 2014 and broke down how much officers in each department would have to pay if they were the ones on the hook for the settlements. Each of Chicago’s 12,042 cops would have to pay $20,735 to cover the $249.7 million in settlements for police misconduct lawsuits between 2010 and 2014. NYPD officers also would have a fairly large bill to cover the $601.3 million in settlements over that same period; each of the city’s 34,454 police officers would have to pay $17,452.

In Baltimore, the city’s 2,949 cops would have to pay $4,069 each if they were on the hook for paying the $12 million in settlements the city has paid out between 2010 and 2014. If you add the proposed settlement in the lawsuit over Gray’s death that amount increases by more than 50 percent to $6,239 per officer.

The data showing how much each department spent on legal settlements for police misconduct lawsuits was compiled by the Wall Street Journal in July, after the city of New York agreed to settle a lawsuit over the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer last summer.