Making the case for independent oversight of police (and eventual abolition) one example at a time
Source: Pittsburgh City Paper
In case you haven’t seen it, I wrote a similar article last year about the civil settlement costs for Baltimore taxpayers over a five year period. You can find it here.
Since 2008, excessive force, police misconduct and false imprisonment has cost Pittsburgh taxpayers $11, 281,178 in civil settlements. The largest settlement to date, which cost the city $5.5 million, resulted from an officer shooting Leon Ford five times during a traffic stop in 2012, paralyzing him. The second largest settlement to date, which cost the city $3.7 million, resulted from the false imprisonment of Thomas Doswell, who was initially convicted of rape in 1986 but exonerated with DNA evidence in 2005. The city has paid a total of 43 civil settlements over the past decade, most of which were much smaller than the two aforementioned cases, ranging from $1,000 to $250,000. Often the officers that caused the civil damages were allowed to keep their job, like the cop that shot Leon Ford or in the more disturbing case of an off-duty officer assaulting a civilian.
In 2011, the city paid $40,000 to Kaleb Miller following a claim of excessive force against Pittsburgh police officer Paul Abel. In June 2008, Abel allegedly assaulted Miller and shot him in the hand while off duty. Abel’s homeowner’s insurance was supposed to pay out an additional $4,500 as part of the settlement for Miller, but the decision was ultimately overturned and the city ended up picking up the tab for the additional $4,500. Following the incident, Abel was fired, charged criminally, acquitted by a judge and then given his job back by an arbitrator.
It is no secret that police are usually not held personally responsible for their misconduct, but this problem extends to all government officials as well. Unlike the private sector, where individuals and companies bare the cost of their failures and mistakes (unless there is some intervention to save them e.g. a bailout), government officials can always shift the cost of misconduct and failure onto taxpayers in the form of civil suits, settlements and public debt. Personal responsibility is foreign to them. This is why police officers, and really all civil servants, should be required to purchase malpractice insurance as a corrective measure, essentially a band aid policy until such time as alternative institutions can be introduced.