Report: City Spends Millions on Police Abuse Claims

Since 2011, City Hall has settled more than 200 lawsuits.

Since 2011, City Hall has settled more than 200 lawsuits claiming police misconduct, averaging payouts of around $10 million a year, according to a new report from NewsWorks.

“City Solicitor Shelley Smith said most suits filed against cops are dismissed. But she argues the 150 or so the city agrees to settle every year are not necessarily indicative of an officer’s wrongdoing,” Bobby Allyn reports. “It simply means that we’ve made a cost-benefits determination. That settling the case is in the best interest of the taxpayers,” Smith said.

According to NewsWorks, Philly paid out:

• $9.7 million in 2011.
• $9.1 million in 2012.
• $14 million in 2013.
• 11.4 million in 2014.

This tracks with previous reporting on the topic. In October, MuckRock, an investigative website that specializes in open-records requests, said Philadelphia has paid more than $40 million to settle police misconduct suits since 2009.

“The numbers dwarf comparable statistics in other major cities for which MuckRock obtained the same data,” MuckRock reported. “For example, the cities of Indianapolis, San Francisco, San Jose, and Austin settled or lost a combined 122 police misconduct cases — compared to 586 cases in Philadelphia.” New York paid $428 million — 10 times as much as Philadelphia — during the same period.

Mary Catherine Roper, deputy director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said that some of the cases against the city are “gold digging.”

“But the real question to me is, ‘Why are so many suits being filed? And what is going on that is drawing that kind of attention to our police?'” Roper told NewsWorks. “I’m sure the city would like to say plaintiffs’ attorneys run amok. But at some point, that one may not hold up.”