Millions of Tax Dollars Regularly Spent to Defend Police Abuse
by Stirling Watts
Are you a tax paying resident in a large American metropolitan city? Are you concerned about the accountability of the your hard earned tax dollars?
A recent Russia Today article revealed that in New York City alone over the last five years, nearly half a billion in tax dollars were used to pay settlements to plaintiffs in cases of civil rights violations against citizens – civil rights violations perpetrated by the police. Yes, that’s right – legal settlements, payoffs, large sums of money paid from pubic taxpayer coffers to compensate for civil rights abuses wrongfully carried out by police officers.
Documents that were recently made available to the public by the New York City Law Department revealed that these payoffs totaled more than $428 million, and were the result of more than 12,000 such civil rights cases that have been processed through the New York City court system from 2009 until now, October 2014.
Those are huge amounts of money for just one city to have paid out to compensate for abusive, illegal, actions carried out by paid professional police officers —- and we are talking about New York City alone. Just imagine how much money is being squandered the very same way in other major metro areas of the United States. If you’re an American, you know which cities I mean – the ones constantly in the news for police abuse. Really, if you watch the non-mainstream news, you know that means that virtually all of our cities are guilty.
Let’s think about the basic moral aspects that drive this abuse of taxpayer dollars. We’re talking about taxpayer dollars spent to defend countless unconstitutional actions carried out in supposed “good faith” by law enforcement agencies dealing with crimes which are, for the most part, completely victimless.
To begin with, how many cases of police abuse should we reasonably expect to hear about each year? In an imperfect human world, we might expect that every law enforcement agency will experience at least a blip on the radar of individual problems with officer or agent misbehavior. That’s just human nature. But, shouldn’t the sum total number of abusive police actions reported every year amount to no more than a few isolated instances, caused by a tiny number of bad cops?
And when those inevitable cases of bad behavior do rear their ugly heads, shouldn’t we expect law enforcement agencies to implement immediate and appropriate correctional actions? Why is it that following every deadly shooting by a police officer, regardless of the sequence of events that led to the incident, officers who have discharged their weapon killed someone are routinely put on paid administrative leave? Isn’t something missing in the individual accountability and responsibility requirements expected of the average American law enforcement officer?
If that’s not a relevant issue, then how is it that just last year, New York City paid more than $96 million (yes, that’s right, $96 million!) in settlements to citizen plaintiffs whose civil rights were abused by NYC cops? Even more amazing is that Mayor Bloomberg, at least according to the claims of the Russia Today article, regularly shrugs these numbers off as irrelevant. As a taxpayer in New York City, would you also find these figures irrelevant?
A bigger moral dilemma, and the “war on drugs”
This excessive abuse of taxpayer funds is only a part of an even bigger moral dilemma. Is it morally sound public policy for police departments to pay off victims whose civil rights have been violated by police with massive amounts of money taken from the taxpayers – taxpayers who quite reasonably expect the responsible use of public funds?
On the other hand, when any citizen’s civil rights are violated as the result of irresponsible police behavior, are those citizens not rightfully due compensation for the wrongs done to them? Of course they are, and who then is to pay for the wrongs committed by our public servants?
When anyone does wrong, is not the wrongdoer the final responsible party? Why, then, is the responsibility laid on the taxpayers and not on the police officer? It is simply because taxpayers are a convenient source of easy cash for large and powerful city operated organizations like police departments. It is because we all know that the police department itself serves to isolate the officers within that police department, the officers who carry out these cowardly and irresponsible acts, from blame or guilt.
What might be done to begin to curb this massive financial fraud? Change just might begin with ending the all too common unconstitutional practices of no knock raids, warrantless searches, reasonless traffic stops, unconstitutional checkpoints, and other many varieties of 4th amendment violations. What is fueling that?
This alarming trend of police abuse and the constant daily violation of individual’s constitutional rights by police is fueled almost completely by a senseless “war on drugs”.
It’s time to stop that nonsense.