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The Cost of Police Misconduct: A Review of Ten Cases

A study conducted by the Cato Institute in 2020 analyzed the costs of police misconduct settlements and judgments in the United States from 2010 to 2020. The study found that during this period, police misconduct-related payments amounted to over $3 billion (or in excess of $300 million per year). This figure includes settlements, judgments, and legal fees associated with lawsuits filed against municipal law enforcement agencies.

       $300 million annual cost to taxpayers

The issue of police misconduct and its consequences has been a subject of discussion for a considerable time. It goes beyond matters of social justice and racial equality; it also involves economic implications. The financial burden on taxpayers is substantial. It is crucial for the public to grasp that poorly designed policies and inadequate department funding, which affect the recruitment of qualified personnel and proper officer training, result in increased costs when individuals suffer from preventable errors. This article investigates ten instances where avoidable police misconduct resulted in substantial settlements and the subsequent expenses borne by taxpayers.

1. Erik Emmanuel Salas-Sanchez:

In March 2022, the City of El Paso agreed to pay a $1.2 million settlement to the family of Erik Emmanuel Salas-Sanchez, a 22-year-old who was shot in the back and killed by an El Paso police officer in his home in 2015. The medical examiner's report contradicted the police's account, confirming that Salas-Sanchez was running away when shot. This incident illustrates the importance ridding departments of officers that lack good character and honesty.

2. Daunte Wright Case:

Daunte Wright's death at the hands of officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center led to a $3.25 million settlement paid by the city. Potter's claim of mistaking her firearm for a taser highlighted the importance of proper training and weapon handling. The settlement demonstrates the financial repercussions of inadequate policing protocols and the need for enhanced training on de-escalation and implicit bias.

3. Soren Stevenson:

Minneapolis reached a $2.4 million settlement with Soren Stevenson, who lost an eye after being shot by a rubber bullet during protests following George Floyd's murder. The incident revealed the importance of responsible use of less-lethal force.

4. Virgil Lee Jackson Jr. and Jaleel Stallings:

The Minneapolis City Council approved a $645,000 settlement for Virgil Lee Jackson Jr. and a $1.5 million settlement for Jaleel Stallings, both victims of excessive force. The incident involving a SWAT team firing plastic projectiles at innocent civilians showcased the need for accountability and transparency in law enforcement agencies. 

5. Anjanette Young:

Chicago City Council agreed to pay $2.9 million to Anjanette Young, who experienced a wrongful raid on her home. The incident exposed flaws in search warrant procedures and prompted policy changes to prevent future violations. This case highlights the need and importance of ensuring police accountability and strict adherence to respecting individual constitutional rights.

6. Tae-Ahn Lea:

The city of Louisville agreed to pay $375,000 to Tae-Ahn Lea, a Black teenager whose constitutional rights were violated during a traffic stop initiated on the pretext of a wide-turn. The case illustrated the impact of racial profiling, pretextual stops, and unnecessary use of force.

7. Manuela "Mona" Rodriguez:

The Long Beach Unified School District settled for $13 million with the family of an 18-year-old woman shot by a school safety officer through the window of a fleeing vehicle. Mona was  seated on the passenger side. The immediate dismissal of this officer and subsequent criminal charges highlights the importance that officers follow police polices when it comes to use of deadly force.

8. Demetrius Hollins:

Gwinnett County officials agreed to pay $400,000 to Demetrius Hollins, a Black man who was assaulted by two white Gwinnett County officers during a traffic stop alleging license plate issue. Both officers, who were subsequently fired and indicted for assault, punched Hollins in the face and stomped on his head, despite him putting his hands. Both officers having prior records of misconduct highlights the need for leaders not to ignore patterns of excessive force and falsified reports.

9. Andrea Churna:

In September 2020, Andrea Churna called 911 seeking help, reporting that she was scared of a stalker who was threatening her life. When officers arrived at the scene in Redmond, they encountered Churna, who they believed may have been experiencing a mental health crisis. The situation escalated, and despite Churna complying with officers' demands to drop to the ground with her hands on her head, officers continued to fire warning shots at her. Despite this, Churna was shot by Officer Daniel Mendoza while face down on the ground and unarmed. The medical examiner would later recover six rifle bullets from her body and ruled her death as a homicide. There are no words for this. 

10. Manuel Ellis:

The Pierce County Police Department reached a $4 million settlement in a wrongful death suit filed by the family of Manuel Ellis. Ellis, a Black man, was killed by Tacoma police officers in March 2020. Witnesses testified that the officers attacked Ellis without provocation and used excessive force, leading to his death. Unprovoked attacks by officers in this case clearly indicates a need to examine training, recruiting and leadership that would make such an incident possible. 

The ten cases presented above provide a glimpse into the poor decisions made by officers that resulted in substantial financial costs borne by taxpayers. These misconduct cases encompass wrongful deaths, injuries, violations of constitutional rights, and instances of racial profiling. They inflict tremendous harm on individuals, families, and entire communities, leaving lasting negative effects. Ultimately, the cumulative impact of these incidents erodes trust in law enforcement within the community. Unless there is a dedicated effort to identify effective solutions for curbing police misconduct, such occurrences will persist, further burdening taxpayers with an unnecessary and escalating bill.

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