Police brutality is outrageously expensive. The human costs, in lost lives alone, number in the tens of thousands. Millions of other incidents of police harassment, discrimination, and non-lethal brutality have also taken a heavy toll on this country. The enormous physical and psychological costs of police brutality in America can never be fully measured, but the monetary costs can.
Just hours ago, it was announced that the family of Philando Castile will receive a $3 million settlement. Virtually every single case of police brutality you’ve ever heard of, from Tamir Rice to Freddie Gray to Walter Scott to Eric Garner, to thousands of other cases, have cost taxpayers that much, or more.
The collective cost of police brutality in America is in to the billions of dollars now. Between 2004 – 2014, the City of Chicago alone paid out $521,294,275 on police claims and costs. Not only do hundreds of other cases remain open in Chicago, but they’ve paid out some of their largest settlements ever since those latest numbers were reported. That’s one American city that has paid half a billion dollars in police brutality costs in the past decade alone – all why closing down dozens and dozens of elementary schools to cut costs.
Here in New York City, $228.5 million was spent on police brutality claims and costs in 2015 alone. At that pace, the city will be paying out over $1 billion on police brutality claims every five years. It’s absurd. That money could be spent on so many different things to make New York better, but instead it’s spent to compensate those who’ve been wronged by brutal cops.
Again, just considering New York and Chicago, we’re talking about billions of dollars being spent on the costs of police brutality. New York and Chicago represent just a fraction of 1% of America’s population. While no comprehensive figure has been released on exactly how much this nation is spending to support the costs of police brutality, we can safely assume it’s tens of billions of dollars.
If one did not know the facts of how America operates, and just saw how much victims and families affected by police brutality have been paid, one could and should safely assume that America’s jails would be full of brutal cops. They aren’t. Our nation is fully willing, at the expense of America’s taxpayers, to simply underwrite the costs of being horrifically brutal to its citizens. Isn’t it interesting how silent fiscal conservatives are about the costs of police brutality?
What these settlements do is allow cities and police departments to operate as if they’ve righted a wrong, as if they’ve brought a tiny semblance of justice to a broken family, and then move, without ever fully fixing or repairing or overhauling the system that continues to mow down men, women, and children who should still be alive today. Let’s be clear, though – paying these families is necessary, but it’s justice – for them or for the community at large.
Not only is paying these families far from justice, it puts absolutely no pressure on the police officers who are costing our country tens of billions of dollars to do anything to change. Those payouts don’t affect them one little bit.
They should. As long as police departments are able to put the bill for their brutality on the backs of everyday people, nothing is going to change about the crisis we are facing. Here are some possible solutions:
Pension funds of police departments, paid into by police officers, should be paying out these enormous settlements – not everyday people who had nothing to do with the brutality. Certainly, individual officers who are responsible for police brutality should be held responsible for these claims. Their pensions, investments, savings, and salaries should be targeted. As a part of these settlements, officers should have to pay toward those costs for the rest of their lives – no matter how costly it may be. Like those who miss child support payments, police who miss their settlement repayment, should go to jail. That would only be fair. Except it seems that conservatives are only about law, order, and punishment when it comes to certain types of people – brutal cops are clearly not on that list.
Right now, cops are so willing to be brutal, when brutality are from necessary, in great part, because they know it’s highly unlikely that they’ll go to jail, lose their jobs, or ever pay a dime toward the restitution of their own brutality. Police brutality is not only protected, it’s basically funded annually by us.
City by city, if police are going to continue to be brutal, we must change the source of the funds paid out, so that they actually feel the pain of their actions as well.
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