Over the past decade, Chicago has spent more than $500 million on police-related settlements, judgments, legal fees and other costs — raising new questions about the adequacy of training and oversight in the Chicago Police Department, according to a review by the Better Government Association reported by the Chicago Sun Times. Last year alone, the city shelled out $84.6 million — the largest annual payout in the decade analyzed by the BGA, and more than triple the $27.3 million the city had initially projected to spend last year. “That blows me away,” said alderman Nicholas Sposato. “It'd be huge for the city not to have to spend that money. It would mean jobs and fixing up infrastructure.”
With nearly 500 such lawsuits pending, criminal justice experts say new lawsuits will surely keep filling the pipeline until the city addresses a so-called “code of silence” — where officers refuse to report colleague misbehavior — and a flawed disciplinary system that together allow misconduct to continue. BGA found more than $521.3 million has been spent to handle police misconduct-related lawsuits from 2004 to the present day. The true cost is even higher, as the BGA counted settlements and judgments, legal bills and other fees — but not less tangible expenses related to, say, insurance premiums, investigators and the cost of incarcerating innocents. BGA found 1,611 misconduct-related lawsuits filed against Chicago police from 2009 to 2013, a majority alleging excessive force.