Cash-strapped cities and ordinary citizens bear the financial and social cost of police violence,
The recent $27 million settlement between the city of Minneapolis and the family of George Floyd is the largest pretrial settlement in a civil rights wrongful death case in U.S. history. It’s also a glaring signal that our system to hold police accountable for wrongdoing is woefully broken.
Civil settlements for police misconduct have become more frequent — and in the many cases where criminal charges fail to materialize, this is the only recourse for victims and families to seek accountability and remediation for the harm they have suffered. What is lesser known is that these payouts don’t actually achieve accountability, nor do they serve as a deterrent for police misconduct because the funds almost never come from police budgets.
Instead, these payouts are often covered by insurance policies or settlement budgets where taxpayers — as opposed to the wrongdoers or the institutions that fail to correct practices that perpetuate misconduct — are left footing the bill. And this structure offers little risk-management incentive to address the underlying problems.