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.


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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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