Last year, the city of Chicago paid a total of $85 million in settlements for police misconduct lawsuits and spent an additional $28 million in attorney's fees defending themselves in court against police misconduct allegations. The city averaged almost one lawsuit payout every two days with a median payout of $50,000 and a minimum of $500. Some of the settlement money was paid out for wrongful convictions. This included a settlement of $9.3 million to James Kluppelberg, who was wrongfully convicted of arson, after he was forced to confess through torture, and spent 25 years in prison. It also included a payout of $3.5 million to Patrick Hampton, who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and imprisoned for 20 years and a $4 million settlement for 2 men wrongfully convicted for a double murder in 1992. The largest settlement was a payout of $16 million to the Family of Betty Jones, who was shot and killed by now disgraced officer Robert Rialmo on December 26, 2015 when he fired at a suspect behind her. Other large settlements include a $15 million payout to the families of two men killed by former detective Joseph Frugoli in a 2009 drunk driving accident. Another $9.5 million was also paid to Jose Lopez who was paralyzed after being knocked to the ground by tasering which resulted in a brain injury. The city might have saved themselves these expenses if the internal affairs of their police department had done their job. These aren't isolated incidents, but are rather symptomatic of larger cultural problems in big city police departments; as Christy Lopez, a former investigator in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, points out, there is a 'Blue Code of Silence' within the Chicago Police Department which sweeps even the most egregious criminal misconduct under the rug:
Well, we had many officers in the department tell us that there was a code of silence. … We found that the department not only tolerates but incentivizes a code of silence. They make it difficult for [internal affairs] investigators to investigate whether officers concealed misconduct. They don’t take steps to make sure that things like body cams and car cameras are working.
The 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald and subsequent cover-up opened a goldmine of information on how police handle crimes committed by their own members and it affirmed what most police accountability activist already suspected; police investigate themselves and find themselves innocent of wrong doing. Oversight of the police department shouldn’t come from within the same police department. This would be akin to the president having his cabinet investigate him during an impeachment trial. Oversight of executive officials should come from an independent elected body that has the power conduct their own investigations and subpoena the police department, just as it does at the federal level. Allowing police to investigate themselves is not only bad governance, by failing to separate powers, but it is also contrary to another principle fundamental to our republic: equality before the law. In theory, our laws are supposed to apply equally to all citizens; in practice, a badge and the right political connections grants impunity for criminal behavior. This problem cannot be solved through the same thinking that created it.