Reining in the police

Since 2016, the District of Columbia has spent more than $40 million to settle police misconduct lawsuits, according to the records released by the Office of Attorney General .  The records did not include several other settlements for lawsuits which, the police department told the council, cost taxpayers $805,000.

About $33 million detailed in the records from the attorney General’s office covered six claims of wrongful conviction and death, while $2.8 million was to settle the last of several lawsuits over botched arrests during 2002 protests in Pershing Park. The remaining $5 million was to resolve at least 65 other suits — alleging false arrest, excessive force, negligence and violations of constitutional rights — with amounts that often ranged from $25,000 to $200,000.

“Behind these dollars are real people who live here or visited here,” Allen said, adding that the collective tab is costly. “What more could we be doing with tax dollars to end violence and fund victim services?”

Dustin Sternbeck, a police spokesman, said in a statement that officers in the past five years have responded to more than 3 million calls and made nearly 150,000 arrests. He said it would be “misleading and disingenuous to suggest any broad conclusions can be drawn from approximately 70 lawsuits that were settled by the city during a similar time frame where no fault was admitted.”  (Police Chief Peter Newsham declined to speak on the record for this article.)(Washington Post, 25 Dec 2020)

My reaction:  At frequent intervals we get phone calls from the police raising money for the current police force  or retired officers.  I  used to give money, but in view of the cost of police misconduct, a cost that comes out of the pockets of taxpayers, I now have a response to callers, the gist of which is this: “Policemen are public servants, represented by a union. If you are not happy with the money paid you, complain to the union, which will advocate. for you with the Council. We pay our taxes which cover your salaries.  I understand that the legal cases form a small part of the cost of policing, but we should not be asked to pay more for the  mishandling of cases by police officers, sometimes resulting in deaths.”.

The troubling thing is:  are we a marked couple?  Were a criminal to assault us or burgle our house will we get full-hearted protection?  It is not, I’m sure, intentional but I feel an element of  blackmail in these police phone calls.  I want peace of mind.

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