Baltimore to leave its cops on the hook for civil suit payouts

Police officers working in Baltimore have always been able to rely on the financial backing of the city when the courts demanded payouts for wrongful death or police brutality suits, but that could soon change.

According to the Forward Observer, Baltimore's police union has cautioned its members that individual officers may soon be responsible for paying damages to litigants that have won suits for police brutality, wrongful deaths or other wrongdoings they undertook in the line of duty.

It's not unusual for police departments or police officers to be named in a civil suit. In most instances, such cases end with the officers in question being freed of any liability, due to the fact that they were doing their jobs within the confines of the law, or that they were found not guilty by a jury or a residing judge. However, if an officer is found guilty, the punitive damages awarded to the victim are usually paid out from the coffers of the city or agency that the officer works for. That Baltimore will be leaving its police officers on the hook for damages awarded in civil suits where they're named is unusual, and could have some serious ramifications for how the city is policed.

Baltimore's new policy could make malicious, heavy-handed cops think twice before using force, deadly or otherwise, in the line of duty. Where ethics and humanity have failed to curb their violence, a serious hit to their wallets could do the trick. But there's a downside to this, as well: not all police officers have it in for the communities that they've sworn to protect. Read the rest

Even when a Chicago cop is convicted of wrongdoing, a secret appeals court usually overturns it

Chicago boasts one of the nation's most corrupt police forces: Chicago PD ran an off-the-books secret torture site; stole millions from innocents and used the funds to buy illegal surveillance gear; has more than 125,000 outstanding abuse complaints; conducted an illegal extortion racket and a coverup that went to the highest levels; is systemically racist and corrupt; a force that tolerates cops who cover up and celebrate murder (no surprise that the force trained the ex-Gitmo torturer who beat Dr David Dao unconscious for refusing to give up his seat on a United flight). Read the rest

Police unions are a public enemy

Thanks the the contracts police unions get from local governments, it's not only hard to get rid of violent, corrupt cops, but investigating them in the first place is made nigh-impossible. They beat, steal and grift with impunity. The New York Times' editorial board says it's time for legislators to rip up these agreements and force the rule of law on those who represent it.

Across the country, municipal governments have signed contracts with police unions including provisions that shield officers from punishment for brutal behavior as well as from legitimate complaints by the citizens they are supposed to serve.

That may soon change, as public outrage over police killings of civilians is ratcheting up pressure on elected officials to radically revise police contracts that make it almost impossible to bring officers to justice.

The most striking case in point is Chicago, which has been roiled by a police scandal stemming from a cover-up in the case of a 17-year-old named Laquan McDonald, who was executed by a police officer nearly two years ago.

What's changed? Even old white folks are becoming scared of the cops. If it shows just how bad this problem has gotten, it's also a bitter reminder of what it takes to get something done about it. Read the rest