(Mother Jones) – When police officers kill unarmed citizens they are rarely charged, let alone convicted of a crime. The victims’ families often turn to civil complaints against the police, as is currently the case in New York City, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, where wrongful death and other civil rights claims filed in the wake of officer-involved killings could result in payouts tallying in the millions of dollars. Still, the police officers involved are likely to suffer no financial pain. That’s because in the vast majority of such cases, whether they are settled or go to court, the officers don’t pay a dime.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer is currently reviewing civil claims brought by the family of Eric Garner, the 43-year old Staten Island man who died in July 2014 after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold. The $75 million worth of claims include wrongful death, assault, pain and suffering, and negligent hiring and training by the NYPD. But if the city decides to settle the case with the Garner family, a spokesperson for the comptroller told Mother Jones, Pantaleo will pay nothing.
Instead, taxpayers will shoulder the cost. Between 2006 and 2011, New York City paid out $348 million in settlements or judgments in cases pertaining to civil rights violations by police, according to a UCLA study published in June 2014. Those nearly 7,000 misconduct cases included allegations of excessive use of force, sexual assault, unreasonable searches, and false arrests. More than 99 percent of the payouts came from the city’s municipal budget, which has a line item dedicated to settlements and judgments each year. (The city did require police to pay a tiny fraction of the total damages, with officers personally contributing in less than 1 percent of the cases for a total of $114,000.)