Conventional wisdom suggests that an erosion of trust in the police among African-Americans has sprung from viral graphic videos of ugly and sometimes deadly interactions between officers and black citizens. But a Washington Post analysis of citizen complaints and civil lawsuits in the District of Columbia asserts that trust has been destroyed in moments that were not caught on camera and that might have gone unnoticed if they hadn’t been reported. The Post said its extensive examination of the records from that past decade shows that even in a city with a majority-black department and a robust civilian oversight office with newly enhanced powers, hundreds of incidents occur each year in which people feel mistreated by those who are supposed to protect them. “It made me hate the police,” said Viola Briggs, who was involved in one such troubling incident.
Since 2005, the city has agreed or been ordered to pay at least $31.6 million in 173 cases alleging police misconduct, including claims of false arrest and excessive use of force. The District’s payouts have risen sharply recently. In the first nine months of 2016, misconduct lawsuits cost city taxpayers at least $3.8 million in judgments or settlements. And last week, the family of Terrence Sterling, a motorcyclist fatally shot Sept. 11 by a D.C. police officer, filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city and the police department alleging that the 31-year-old “was unarmed and posed no danger” when he was killed.