Chicago Does Little to Control Police Misconduct - or Its Costs

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The stories behind Chicago’s police settlements often begin in ordinary moments. Riding a bike. Attending a barbecue. Watching TV.

They often end in extraordinary circumstances, according to the lawsuits. An 11-year-old with a gun placed at her temple. A grandmother arrested for battery to a police officer. A young man shocked unconscious by a Taser.

Most of these cases conclude as they occurred – outside of the public glare. People know about the high-profile police shootings of civilians and the multimillion-dollar settlements that result. But most cases are lesser known and settle for far less. Half of all cases paid out $36,000 or less, but they also contribute to a mounting taxpayer bill that goes largely unchecked by the mayor or City Council.


Alfonso and Patricia Cavada at their home in Archer Heights with their sons Alfonso Jr., 14, and Michael, 5. In April 2011, the Cavadas were injured when a dozen Chicago police officers stormed their home in the middle of the night. Photo by Michelle Kanaar

The City of Chicago spent more than $210 million for police misconduct lawsuits from 2012 to 2015, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis. It spent almost $53 million more on outside attorneys to litigate the cases. The Police Department exceeded its annual budget for lawsuits by almost $50 million, on average, in each of those years.

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