Municipalities across the country paid out more than $300 million in lawsuit settlements involving police brutality, false arrest, and civil rights violations in 2019, according to an investigative report by ABC News.
The nation is hyperfocused on the issue of police brutality following the murder of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who died after a police officer placed a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Video of the incident have led to worldwide protests calling for racial equality in policing, and brought calls for significant restructuring of law enforcement nationwide.
In addition, a number of incidents involving what appear to be police brutality against protesters and other African Americans, often caught on video, have surfaced as a result of the unrest.
According to a recent investigation by ABC News, during fiscal year 2019, cities nationwide paid more than $300 million to settle complaints against the police, indicating there are thousands of such reports every year.
New York City alone, the home of the largest police force in the nation, paid out $175.9 million in judgments and settlements in 2019. However, that number does not include settlements made by the New York City Comptroller’s office, which represents the city and its employees in court, according to the investigative report.
That office paid out at least another $4 million in settlements last year involving excessive force and civil rights violations, according to the report. The Comptroller, Scott Stringer, sent a letter to New York City Mayer Bill de Blasio on June 4, indicating the city has spent $1.3 billion due to police misconduct since 2014.
Similarly, Los Angeles County paid out $16.3 million last year to pay for nine judgments and 240 settlements against the Sheriff’s Department, which includes several law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department.
All of that is taxpayer money, which could have been useful elsewhere, critics say.
A wide array of potential reform ideas are being floated nationwide, including calls to “Defund the Police”, a misnomer which actually calls for public safety to be restructured, with the use of mental health professionals and other public safety professions being employed, instead of having police officers respond to every call, even when they are not trained to deal with the situation.
Other proposed ideas have included mandatory body cameras, bans on choke holds and other types of restraints, and shifting more resources to mental health and combating poverty.