Cops are getting sued a lot more often these days. In Detroit, particularly.
According to local news reports in Detroit, the Motor City has paid out $19.1 million to settle claims of police misconduct since 2015.
Typically these payouts stem from allegations of wrongful arrest, assault and battery, destruction of property and assorted other “dirty cop” classics.
“$19 million? That impacts every single citizen in the city of Detroit,” said Reginald Crawford, a former member of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners.
“The city knows they’re liable, they’re on the hook for something,” Crawford said.
Although $19 million sounds like a lot of money over only three years, these payouts also include cases that were stalled by Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy. Obviously, during bankruptcy proceedings, lawsuits filed against the department had to be more or less “frozen” until the following year.
So, it’s really more like $19 million over five years, which comes out to a little less than $4 million a year.
But that’s still pretty high for a police department in a city with Detroit’s relatively small population. (Detroit’s population has dropped from more than a million in 1990 to the high 600,000s since 2010. Which shouldn’t surprise you, because Detroit is basically the American version of Aleppo.)
Even though Detroit’s getting smaller every year, payouts from its police department are growing. This most recent number, $19 million over three years, is higher than the police misconduct payouts from Dallas, Denver and Indianapolis police departments during the same time period.
In fact, they’re higher than the payouts from all those other cities, combined.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office still claims the department has been reducing the number of misconduct payouts. Duggan says Detroit “is cutting crime with fewer instances of complaints about officer conduct.”
But $19 million is still a huge cost to the taxpayer. And part of the reason for this major cost is because of two very large settlements made by the Detroit PD in cases where officers allegedly shot men posing no threat.
In 2014, police chased a vehicle matching the description of an SUV involved in a carjacking. It turned out police were chasing the wrong vehicle, but when it stopped, one of its occupants, Otis Henderson, opened the door and fled.
Henderson later claimed that he fled because he was afraid of being arrested for a probation violation. This ought to tell you something about the degree to which suspicion and fear of cops motivates black males to make drastic decisions in moments of stress.
A man on probation, apparently not doing anything illegal, sees flashing lights behind him. In his mind, he doesn’t trust the cops. So he runs, hoping that it’ll be his lucky day, and these cops will be of the doughnut-loving variety.
He sees the cops and thinks “I can probably outrun them, and trying to get away is a better choice for me than staying in the car and trying to explain what’s going on, or possibly getting arrested for something I didn’t do and getting sent to jail anyway. So I’m gonna book it.”
The cops see a black male running away and, true to form, they give chase. And in Otis Henderson’s case, the cop that ran after him was not one of the doughnut variety, but instead one of the new breed of buff cops that do cardio. The DPD officer chased Henderson into an alley, and shot him in the back. Henderson was unarmed.
The city settled that case for $400,000.
And last year, the city settled another case involving a 44-year-old Detroit man who was shot in the back by police while carrying a pellet gun. Cops mistook the bb gun for a real gun, and allegedly shot the man before he could even turn around and try to explain the situation.
The cops claim that they ordered the man to stop. They claim that he responded by turning and raising his weapon towards them. They fired seven shots, and hit him twice. Medical records showed that those two shots hit the man in the back.
If the guy was indeed “raising his weapon” towards the police, those must have been some fancy newfangled teleporting bullets for them to have hit him in the back when he was facing the cops. And going forward, it seems the Detroit police department may struggle to find the funds for such advanced equipment, because the city settled that case for $925,000.
Which means the budget for magic bullets may be growing a little thin.