DC Lawmakers, Officials Urge Legislation to Deal with True Financial Cost of Police Misconduct after Washington Post Probe

By Delilah Hammons

WASHINGTON, DC – A The Washington Post story earlier this month, “Officials call for transparency on payments for police misconduct allegations after Washington Post investigation” by Keith L. Alexander and Steven Rich, focused on the cost of police misconduct.

Alexander and Rich explained the possible new bill in Congress is called the Cost of Police Misconduct Act. Last Friday, Virginia Democrats Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Don Beyer urged Congress to pass this bill.

“The bill would require federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to report police misconduct allegations and related judgments or settlements, including court fees, to the Justice Department,” said the Post, adding, the goal “would be to increase transparency and accountability, saving taxpayer dollars and potentially lives.”

However, the story noted “one of the elements—if sought by lawmakers as a condition of their vote—could be that only officers who were the subject of multiple payments or payments of more than an identified minimum would be made public. Identifying and measuring such payments is a way, the bill’s authors said, to reduce them.”

According to the article, “Two federal lawmakers and the District’s Office of Police Complaints renewed their calls this week for police departments to make public details about police officers whose alleged misconduct resulted in multiple payments for claims including wrongful arrests and excessive force.”

The authors explained this push for transparency came about after a Washington Post investigation revealed “25 of the largest police and sheriff’s departments spent more than $3.2 billion to resolve claims of police misconduct over the past 10 years.”

Along with “more than $1.5 billion had been spent to settle claims against officers who had been named in more than one paid claim. Those payments—and the officers involved—are rarely tracked by police departments or city officials who approve such taxpayer-financed settlements,” the study showed.

At the end of the investigation, The Post found “65 officers in the District were named in multiple claims between 2010 and 2020, accounting for $7.6 million of the more than $90 million in payments—the fifth-highest overall of the 25 cities surveyed.”

The article states, “The lawmakers hope the Senate and House will pass their act, which would require such payments involving police officers to be recorded and made public at all levels of government.”

Kaine shared in an interview with the Washington Post a few weeks ago, “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.”

The article also explains that the executive director of the Office of Police Complaints, Michael G. Tobin, took it upon himself to write a letter to the D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee, III, calling for “the department to establish a program to ‘systematically review’ lawsuits filed against the department and its officers.”

The authors explained that Contee also told the department that they “should publicly publish reports regarding the lawsuits and any intervention, training or policy changes that resulted from the litigation.”

The article stated that, while Beyer hopes that the bill will be up for a vote by the end of July in the House, he still has some steep challenges to face. One of which is that “the majority of Republican senators have balked at police revision measures.”

It is Kaine’s hope that the “Republicans would focus on the financial liability of alleged police misconduct and agree on creating measures that track officers involved in repeated claims that ultimately affect ‘taxpayer’s pockets,’” stated the article.

Executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, Jim Pasco, told The Post during the investigation that “he opposed linking such information to an officer in public or using it as a form of performance review, especially since in the majority of such payments, officers do not admit wrongdoing nor is there a finding by a court.”

Beyer said that this is “basically physics that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Once you measure something, then you can change people’s behavior.”

About The Author

Delilah Hammons attends Sacramento City College and plans on transferring to a UC in two years to major in English. She wants to purse a career as a writer after graduating with the hope of publishing her own books.

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