In the past few years, St. Louis police have shelled out $4.7 million in settlement money for fatalities, injuries, and wrongful imprisonment. According to an investigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, three of those settlements were made long before prosecutors decided whether or not to file criminal charges against the officers responsible — or weren’t reviewed by prosecutors at all.
The Post-Dispatch discovered that St. Louis police have settled 44 cases since 2010. One of those cases involved the fatal shooting of Jason Stockley, which was settled for $900,000, two years before the officer involved was charged with murder. The families of two other police shooting victims, Cary Ball and Normane Bennett, received money for cases that Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce didn’t intend to investigate or prosecute. Ball’s family received $400,000 roughly five months after he was shot 21 times by police officers. Bennett’s family received $212,500 nearly two years after the 23-year-old was killed while running away from police.
In response to the investigation, Joyce’s office expressed concern that police agreed to pay hundreds of thousands to Ball and Bennett’s families without having the cases looked into by prosecutors. However, there is still no intention to review them in the future, because of a lack of funding and “manpower.”
Is St. Louis Really Committed To Police Accountability? Or Are They Just Papering Over The Problems…Justice by CREDIT: Shutterstock On Monday, in response to police-involved shootings that have reignited a tense debate…thinkprogress.orgThe decision to pay victims’ families occurred in the years leading up to Michael Brown’s shooting, which put a spotlight on St. Louis for officers’ excessive use of force. The city’s police are now under fire for making unconstitutional, warrant-less arrests. The settlements suggest that officers have tried to cover up misconduct for years.
“In my considerable experience, police departments do not settle and certainly don’t settle for a lot of money unless there is clear evidence of liability, clear evidence the shooting was unjustified,” Jon Loevy, an attorney with the Chicago firm Loevy & Loevy, told the Post-Dispatch. The firm recently won a $2.5 million settlement in court for an exoneree whose case involved St. Louis police. “I can tell you from experience, they don’t just cough up money routinely. They fight hard, they are reluctant to resolve cases and there is just not that kind of money lying around unless there is merit.” St. Louis is far from the only city to shell out money to victims. In April, Cleveland agreed to pay Tamir Rice’s estate $6 million following a wrongful death lawsuit. In New York City, Eric Garner’s family received $5.9 million. Baltimore agreed to a $6.4 million settlement for the death of Freddie Gray.
But police departments — or the officers accused of wrongdoing — rarely foot the bill. Operating on limited budgets, most departments simply don’t have the money. Police forces that do have larger budgets to work with, such as the NYPD, are bogged down with multiple lawsuits and financially drained as a result. In the end, the government usually pays for the settlements using taxpayer money.