Jury awards record $44.7M in Chicago police misconduct case

Jury awards record $44.7M in Chicago police misconduct case

This latest amount broke the previous city payout record of $25 million for a wrongful conviction suit in 2012.

A federal jury awarded $44.7 million to Michael LaPorta, who jurors found had been shot in the head by an off-duty Chicago police officer. Officer Patrick Kelly reportedly misled investigators about the shooting, claiming LaPorta had shot himself in a suicide attempt.

The jury took two days to deliberate, but had determined within 20 minutes that Kelly had shot LaPorta. As a result of the shooting, LaPorta can no longer walk or read, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune reported that Kelly had a long history of misconduct allegations. Twice he had been found mentally unfit for duty, and was arrested twice. He had also been accused of beating a girlfriend and received treatment for alcohol addiction. Kelly was the subject of over 20 conduct investigations and six lawsuits and was found to have assaulted a female sergeant.

The $44.7 million award breaks the previous record for a city payout, which was $25 million for a wrongful conviction suit in 2012, according to the Tribune.

Cases like these not only destroy lives, but also cost taxpayers millions. From 2004 through 2015, police misconduct cost Chicago taxpayers $642 million, according to the Better Government Association.

And that cost appears to be growing.

Over the course of just one week in September, Chicago taxpayers had to shell out $10.2 million thanks to several cases of past police misconduct, according to DNAinfo. Some $9.5 million was paid to a man who was shocked by a Chicago Police Department officer with a stun gun, which caused the man to fall and hit his head. A $395,000 settlement was paid to 17 people who were pepper sprayed, and the family of a man who died after police fired two shots at him with a stun gun was paid $200,000. The city also had to pay $120,000 to a man who spent more than three years in prison before his conviction was overturned by an appeals court that ruled CPD had conducted an illegal search.

In June 2016, the Chicago Office of Inspector General, or OIG, issued a report calling for the city of Chicago to adopt a comprehensive risk management program. The OIG argued that such a program would help reduce the number and severity of personal injury and property damage claims by members of the public and city employees, thereby reducing costs.

The OIG’s analysis showed several specific ways in which such a program would be beneficial. Other local governments have implemented risk management programs, resulting in significant savings for taxpayers.

The OIG analysis cites local governments such as New York City, Sacramento, California, Los Angeles and Maricopa County, Arizona, which have all implemented risk management policies. In New York, the city comptroller’s office holds weekly meetings in order to review claims trends and complaint spikes for specific officers.

The need for reform is clear. As both human and financial costs continue to rise, Chicago politicians should be figuring out solutions. Victims of police misconduct, as well as Chicago taxpayers at large, deserve better.

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