When the family of Sean Bell came to a $7.15 million settlement with the city, even though the police officers in the shooting were found not guilty of charges, it got a lot of people wondering just how willing the city is to pay out to make ugly cases go away. According to a new report by the AP, they are the most willing police department in the country: the city has paid nearly $1 billion in settlements over the last decade.
According to their report, the $964 million in payouts covers everything from brutality cases to patrol-car wrecks to stationhouse accidents, and it includes settlements and trial awards. NYC's numbers hugely dwarf any other major city, although the Big Apple has a much larger police force as well; Chicago, a third of NYC's population, has paid out an average of $39 million a year over the past six years. Officials say the payments cost less than insurance would, and officers themselves don't usually bear personal responsibility, which leaves it to taxpayers: "Right now it's open season against the city. Just file a lawsuit, and you're going to get money," said City Council member Peter Vallone, who has sponsored a bill he hopes will make it impossible to pay out dubious claims.
Some recent settlements: $250,000 over a subway arrest that resulted in a fractured cheekbone, $300,000 to cops whose boss had jock itch, and $9.9 million to a man wrongly framed by dirty cops and spent 18 years in prison.