May 12, 2021 21:02

How Police Malfeasance Leads to Settlements

A Black woman received $150,000 after saying a police officer yanked her from a restroom and handcuffed her while investigating a theft. A computer engineer, also Black, got $192,000 after officers who mistook him for a robbery suspect beat him so severely on his lawn that he was hospitalized. Over the past five years, the Washington, D.C., government has spent millions of dollars settling dozens of police misconduct lawsuits that document a trail of nonfatal encounters that went painfully wrong, reports the Washington Post. These agreements draw little attention compared with settlements over high-profile police shootings, like $12 million awarded to Breonna Taylor’s family in Louisville. They illustrate the types of altercations that cause distrust of law enforcement and perceptions police are overly aggressive, particularly with Blacks.

“I was on the ground like a dog,” said Michele Hall, 36, who police dragged out of the bathroom while investigating what turned out to be a false charge she stiffed a $1,100 restaurant tab. “I don’t know that I will ever heal again.” The D.C. Attorney General released records of 70 lawsuits against police settled since 2016. One woman received $40,000 after saying an officer pulled her hair and punched her as she tried to defuse an argument. An alleged shoplifter received $27,500 after accusing an officer of slamming him to the ground, fracturing his leg. Despite a recommendation from the Police Complaints Board, the police department has not released detailed reports about lawsuits and settlements. Charles Allen, chair of the D.C. Council Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, said details about the lawsuits and settlements can help guide oversight and reforms. “When you start to see it over and over again, it speaks to the nature of the police,” he said. “We want to understand what’s going on. And what trends do we see, and what are you doing about it?”

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