Chicago spent over $63 million defending police misconduct: study

Chicago spent over $63 million defending police misconduct: study

"Pinstripe patronage" is what the People's Law Office is calling it.

The Chicago law firm that's known for bringing cases of police brutality, false arrest and wrongful convictions wanted to find out just how much the city was paying to outside firms to defend police officers accused of misconduct.

After obtaining records with a Freedom of Information Act Request, they calculated a total: $63.38 million paid to just 11 firms since 2003.

And these firms have been accused of misconduct themselves. The firm that's received the most money--Andrew Hale and Associates--has been cited numerous times for unethical behavior by district court judges, PLO says.

Just who's raking in the dough? Here's a snapshot of the money going to outside law firms:

"[T]his outlay of funds is outrageous to those of us who represent victims of serious police abuse and misconduct, and could be put to much better use properly compensating those victims...," says the People's Law Office.

The study comes on the heels of The Chicago Reporter's May investigation by Angela Caputo which revealed that the city spent $45.5 million paying out settlements to victims of police misconduct in just the last two years.

Nearly a quarter of that amount, $11.7 million, went to cases involving "repeaters"--officers who had been named in multiple misconduct cases. The majority of those officers are still on the force.

Flint Taylor, lawyer with the People's Law Office, says he's put in another data request to the city, potentially identifying another 15 firms that have been paid to defend the cops in brutality cases.

"The numbers could easily double in terms of all the lawyers who are retained by the city," said Taylor. "It could really be between $80 and $100 million."

The $63 million we've paid out for defending police misconduct, plus the $11.7 million Caputo identified to settle with repeat offenders, equals $74.7 million that could arguably be spent elsewhere. Just as a mental exercise, I wondered to myself: what could Chicago buy with $74.7 million?

The answers? The yearly wages of 1566 public school teachers, or 997 average cop salaries.

It could pay for about half of the Red Line expansion that would connect poverty-stricken far South Side neighborhoods to public transit.

We could purchase about 249,000 bike racks for city sidewalks. If you wanted to distribute the money directly to citizens, they could buy nearly 15 million hours of parking meter time downtown.

Of course, that money would also be going to a private firm because of Mayor Daley's parking meter deal, but you could certainly do a serious amount of Magnificent Mile shopping with 15 million hours of parking time.

So, what reforms need to be implemented, within the police department and city government, to make sure we're spending more on keeping taxpayers safe and less on defending rogue cops? Tell us your thoughts.

Photo credit: Dustin Moore

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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