Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why Do Cities Like Chicago Spend Millions and Billions Protecting Rogue, Thuggish, Incompetent, Killer Cops?

I am blessed by the company of the very smart and insightful folks who frequent this site. I am working on something longer about the issues discussed below, but I first wanted to ask for your thoughts and insights on the topic.

Several days ago, The Chicago Tribune ran a great piece on the city's corrupt cops, violence, and the money spent to protect the thugs in blue who have the State's permission to kill people of color, the poor, the working class, the mentally ill, and the broadly defined Other without consistent or real negative consequences.

A key passage from the story, "Small group of Chicago police costs city millions in settlements":
Officers Sean Campbell and Steven Sautkus were patrolling their quiet beat on Chicago's Southwest Side in April 2014 when they saw the driver turn without flashing his signal early enough. 
They stopped Jonathan Guzman, then 18, ordered him out of his car and cuffed him while they searched his Chevy Malibu. They were so thorough, Guzman alleged, that they used a drill to dismantle the sound system in the trunk. In the end, the officers found only a marijuana cigarette butt, worth $5. They charged Guzman with misdemeanor drug possession, wrote three traffic citations and impounded his Chevy. 
It wasn't his first encounter with Campbell or Sautkus, Guzman alleges. The two officers and several colleagues in the quiet Garfield Ridge neighborhood where Guzman lives had stopped him numerous times in recent years, he said, for minor traffic infractions or as he hung out in the community of tidy lawns, squat brick cottages and city workers.
The stops occurred so often that Guzman filed a lawsuit in 2014 alleging ongoing, racially charged harassment by the officers. The case was settled last year for $35,000.
Although the settlement was small compared with multimillion-dollar sums the city sometimes pays, a Tribune investigation found that it nonetheless represents a pernicious, stubborn problem: that of officers whose alleged misconduct, while perhaps minor, leads to legal settlements that eventually cost city taxpayers greatly. 
The city since 2009 has settled seven lawsuits against Campbell, a 17-year veteran officer. He ties for second among officers named in the most lawsuits settled by the city during those past six years, the Tribune's analysis of available data shows. His partner during the Guzman arrest, Sautkus, was named in four settled cases.
The Chicago Tribune continues:
Of the more than 1,100 cases the city settled since 2009, just 5 percent were for more than $1 million. Many of those involved fatal shootings, wrongful prosecutions and the sort of brutality allegations that have drawn the attention of the U.S. Justice Department, which recently launched an investigation into the Chicago Police Department's use of force. 
The bulk were settled for less serious incidents, including officers allegedly injuring arrestees during traffic stops, making false arrests, uttering racial slurs or other alleged misconduct while officers were off-duty. 
Still, those lawsuits cost the city millions of dollars, the Tribune's analysis shows, but underwent little scrutiny. A vast majority, 85 percent, were settled for $100,000 or less, which meant the deals did not require City Council approval. And Chicago officers accused of misconduct are rarely disciplined, data show.
Both are part of a small group of officers — just 124 of the city's police force of roughly 12,000 — who were identified in nearly a third of the misconduct lawsuits settled since 2009, suggesting that officers who engaged in questionable behavior did it over and over. The Tribune's investigation also found that 82 percent of the department's officers were not named in any settlements. Still, the conduct of those 124 officers cost the city $34 million, the Tribune investigation found.
I am a pragmatist and a realist. I also believe, like many others do, that politics is fundamentally about the management of resources and power to the advantage of some groups over others. That having been said, I am still struggling with why America's major cities would spend millions (and billions over time) to protect murderous, rogue, thug cops. Could not the same level of social control be accomplished far more cheaply, and with far less negative attention, than what is done by subsidizing killer cops?

Of course, these monies could be better spent on schools, job programs, healthcare, and other outputs, outputs that collectively do far more to reduce crime than the punishing and punitive state. Please share. What am I missing in my calculus? How do you make sense of this apparent puzzle?

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