Payouts for Chicago police misconduct: $50 million this year

In a FOX 32 special report: monumental financial payouts for Chicago police misconduct.

Lawsuits against the CPD often make headlines, but the total cost of police misconduct is buried in the city budget.

FOX 32 took a look at the burden on taxpayers and why it's growing.

Innocent men who collected millions have warned about it, and Chicago aldermen have complained about it.

“We pay out hundreds of millions of dollars, year over year,” said Alderman Howard Brookins.

But despite the warnings and complaints, Chicago taxpayers this year have already paid out about $50 million dollars to victims of police misconduct, and their lawyers. That's compared with just $36 million dollars for all of last year.

And this year's total doesn't include the $17-million-dollar verdict for Jacques Rivera's wrongful conviction. He was framed by former detective Reynald Guevara, who's facing eight similar lawsuits.

“Reynaldo Guevara is going to end up costing the city tens of millions of dollars when all is told,” said attorney Locke Bowman of the MacArthur Justice Center.

Bowman helped represent Rivera.

“What we ought to be thinking about doing is flagging the officers who engage in misconduct, thinking about ways to train and repurpose this money that we're spending on judgments and settlements, after the fact, in more productive ways,” Bowman said.

The $50-million-dollar tab so far this year also doesn’t include the $16-million-dollar settlement for shooting victim Bettie Jones, and a $44-million-dollar jury verdict last fall for Michael Laporta. That case is under appeal.

The Better Government Association (BGA) has tracked police misconduct payments going back more than a decade.

“The word may be out among plaintiff's lawyers that Chicago is a mark. That there is a lot of misconduct that goes on, on this police force, and that the city is willing to settle. That's a bad combination for taxpayers,” said David Greising of the BGA.

A spokesperson for the Fraternal Order of Police says that rising police payouts should be blamed on overly aggressive plaintiffs’ attorneys, the media -- for buying into their stories -- and city attorneys who don's adequately defend the cops.

“They're just settling all these cases when they shouldn't, and it's a devastating blow to morale for police officers, because they're being sued so frivolously,” said FOP spokesperson Martin Preib.

The city says that over the last two years, it's gone to trial on 32 police misconduct cases and won 18 of them.

The city's law department told FOX 32 that it vigorously defends all lawsuits and that settlements are offered only when it's in the best financial interests of taxpayers.

The BGA says the highest annual payout in recent years was $96 million dollars back in 2015.