The Denver Post
Denver paid $1.34 million in 2011 to settle lawsuits that alleged police used excessive force, only the second year since 2004 that the total substantially topped $1 million.
Last year also accounted for the largest payout since 2004, when the city settled the fatal shooting of Paul Childs, a mentally disabled teen who died after confronting an office with a knife.
As in previous years when payments approached or topped $1 million, one case accounted for most of 2011's total settlement. The city paid $795,000 to Alexander Landau, an aspiring rapper/musician and college student who suffered brain injuries and trauma during a 2009 traffic stop for an illegal left turn.
It is often cheaper to settle the cases than take them to court, where it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay legal experts and other costs, even if the city wins, said City Attorney Doug Friednash.
"It's easy to look at these cases and try to make a media splash," he said. "In none of these cases do we admit liability. You have to look at the economics as a steward on behalf of the taxpayers."
The average amount paid per officer to settle cases in Denver per-year — $697 — is far lower than that spent by some other cities, Friednash said. He cited data that found Chicago averaged $2,930, New York $2,700, Los Angeles, $2,200, and Philadelphia, $1,360.
In Denver, the $1.325 million paid to Childs' estate accounted for the bulk of $1.778 million that excessive force suits cost the city in 2004.
Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado legal director, said the per-officer payouts minimize the true cost of excessive force by police.
"We can't let public officials minimize the expense of police brutality by by pointing to a lower per-officer cost than other cities," he said. "None of those dollar amounts factor in the real human cost. They leave behind a trail of bruised bodies, broken bones and shattered lives and you can't put a dollar amount on that."
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
The Denver Post