A look at settlements of police misconduct lawsuits

This summer has been like no other. The nation has been roiled by a pair of historic phenomenons:  the coronavirus pandemic and civic unrest following the death of Texas native George Floyd while in police custody.

Floyd’s death prompted a nationwide wave of protests against police brutality.

Analyzing lawsuit settlements

Texas NPR recently analyzed the monetary settlements of civil lawsuits involving allegations of police misconduct filed against towns, cities and counties since 2015. As is made clear by the headline – “Political Divisions Drive Police Brutality Lawsuit Settlements” – the article looked at how political differences resulted in differences in lawsuit settlement amounts.

Reporter Robert Benincasa wrote that he chose to begin the analysis of settlements with 2015 because “it was the immediate aftermath of the Ferguson protests and because it was long enough ago that most of the cases would have been resolved.”

Diving into the data

He found 93 cases in 2015 “in which an officer killed a person who had not been armed with a gun or other weapon.” Of those cases, 29 of them ended in a settlement.

Benincasa wrote that the largest settlements were in “blue” municipalities – towns and cities that went Democrat in the 2016 election. The average settlement was about $2.6 million per case.

Settlements in “red” counties (those that went Republican in 2016) averaged $1.8 million, Texas NPR reported.

The figures have interesting financial implications for Texas municipalities facing similar legal actions.

A Texas tragedy

In fact, one of the cases highlighted in the article centers on Paris, Texas. In 2015, a man who suffered from schizophrenia was shot and killed there after he physically attacked a Highway Patrol officer.

“He just shot my son, and no one called me to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ “ the man’s mother said.

She has not filed a lawsuit in the case.

Public government entities facing or anticipating lawsuits involving allegations of excessive force or other law enforcement officer misconduct should contact a law firm experienced in representing municipalities and individual administrators and elected officials in Texas civil rights claims.