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Kaine, Beyer Statement on Report Regarding Costs of Police Misconduct

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Don Beyer released the following statement regarding a Washington Post report that police misconduct has cost taxpayers more than $3 billion since 2010, with more than $1.5 billion of that paid to settle claims against officers who had more than one claim against them.

“Police misconduct causes significant harm and puts lives at risk, but settlements for misconduct are often shrouded in secrecy. Law enforcement agencies often settle misconduct claims out of the public eye, burying controversies and making full accountability impossible. This investigative report makes it clear that policymakers need this data, and our Cost of Police Misconduct Act would make sure they get it. We need full transparency so that officers can be held accountable.”

Kaine and Beyer’s Cost of Police Misconduct Act, introduced in March 2021, would create a source of comprehensive data on the size and nature of such payments to help policymakers, stakeholders, and the public understand the scope of the problem and the need for reform. This legislation would require federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to report police misconduct allegations and related judgments or settlements, including court fees, to the Department of Justice, which would increase transparency and accountability, saving taxpayer dollars and potentially lives.

The Washington Post report shows that in some cities, officers whose conduct was at issue in multiple claims accounted for over 60% of those cities’ settlement totals. Claims settled against officers with multiple misconduct claims also tended to be higher, costing taxpayers more money. These findings are in line with previous studies. One previous study found that the nation’s three largest cities—New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles—had paid almost $2.5 billion of the $3 billion total paid out to settle misconduct claims over the past decade, but that smaller cities still spent millions of dollars settling claims. Another report found that the ten cities with the largest police departments paid almost $250 million in settlement costs and court judgments in just one year.

Cities and counties are not required to report information about the costs of police misconduct to the federal government, and often do not actually track the specifics of which officers are responsible for repeated misconduct. Cities and counties may also have different definitions of misconduct, different protections for police, and different levels of access to the justice system to bring claims at all.