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Bad Cop: 7 Cities Where Shocking Police Abuses Cost Taxpayers Millions

Bad police behavior runs roughshod over civil liberties, and costs cities millions of dollars in payouts to those who successfully sue.

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It's not just civilians who sue the LAPD; sometimes it's the officers themselves. According to a different  LA Times piece:

“City records show that from 2005 to 2010, [LAPD] officers have sued the department over workplace issues more than 250 times. The city has paid settlements or verdicts totaling more than $18 million in about 45 of those cases and has lost several other verdicts worth several million dollars more in cases it is appealing, a review of the records shows.”

5. Milwaukee

Milwaukee cops' misconduct has cost the city more than $14 million over the past 10 years, according to a group of residents who compiled a list of 1,200 complaints. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the group claims the Milwaukee police department engages in excessive use of force and racial profiling. The Journal Sentinel details numerous cases of police brutalizing people of color, and includes this quote, from Brenda Bell-White, a member of the coalition that compiled the list:

"This treatment is reminiscent of how African Americans were treated during slavery and Jim Crow," she said. "This is evidence that Jim Crow is alive and well in Milwaukee. It is just called MPD's traffic stop program."

Author and law professor Michelle Alexander has noted that the current system of mass incarceration that disproportionately imprisons people of color is a form of modern-day Jim Crow.

6. Denver

Between 2002 and 2010, the city of Denver paid out over $10 million in police misconduct settlements and judgements, according to the ACLU of Colorado. Denver police have a reputation for using excessive force, sometimes for the smallest infractions. Alexander Landau was pulled over after allegedly making an illegal left turn and beaten by three cops.

The city eventually paid $795,000 to settle the case, but unfortunately for Landau and his supporters, the local investigation into the beating hasn't gone anywhere, and the Department of Justice decided not to pursue federal charges.

The ACLU of Colorado created the Race 2 Justice campaign to highlight cases of excessive force; its slogan is “Police brutality is killing us.”

7. Cleveland

WKYC's Tom Meyer reported in January that police misconduct cost Cleveland over $8 million over the past decade, though that figure doesn't include attorney fees, so the real cost is higher. As with many police misconduct cases, Cleveland cops rarely if ever get fired. The police union doesn't “know of any officer who has been suspended or fired for excessive force,” according to Meyer. If there is an investigation at all, the officer is reassigned to office duty and continues to collect full pay.

The mother of Kenny Smith, shot dead by Cleveland police, claims that her son "wasn't into guns," despite the cops' assertion that Smith, an aspiring rapper, was carrying a gun. The family has hired a lawyer to look into the death.  Another family recently settled a wrongful death suit for $1 million after police shot and killed Ricardo Mason.

There are many more cases of police corruption, brutality and misconduct than are mentioned here, from post- Katrina New Orleans to the continuing problems in New Jersey police departments following internal affair procedures. Cities nationwide need to implement stronger reforms and rein in their police forces, or else we'll have to keep paying for their bad behavior.

John Knefel is the co-host of Radio Dispatch and a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter at @johnknefel.
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