Mass Mayor Says No to Funding Police Legal Fees

When politicians talk about cutting budgets it’s amazing that they go after things like teachers and firefighters. Wouldn’t it make more sense to cut the needless expenses brought on by agressively incompetent and/or abusive civil servants?

As the Eagle Tribune reports, the mayor of Lawrence, Mass., William Lantigua, has the right idea: He says the city will no longer pay the legal bills for police officers who are being sued for misconduct charges. Over the past three years, the city has paid $1.2 million defending police officers in civil cases. (Twenty new police officers could be hired for that money.)

Instead, Lantigua says he will hold to the police unions’ contract, which says the city only has to pay the $5,000 retainer for a patrolman and $7,500 for a superior officer. Lantigua says officers have two options when they are being sued — to use one of the three city attorneys or have their unions pay for the defense.

Police brutality cases are especially costly, and there six lawsuits going to trial in the next six months. Lawrence recently settled one case, paying the plaintiff $400,000. So you can imagine, at this pace, we’re talking about the city potentially paying out over $2 million this year.

This idea is especially relevant in the case of photographers’ rights too, because the courts almost always respect those rights. To wit: a Fox TV camera operator got $1.2 million from the City of Los Angeles, Antonio Musumeci recently got an undisclosed settlement from the federal government, and infamous Amtrak photographer Duane Kerzic reportedly got a five-figure sum from the national railroad.

Really, this is a no-brainer. Spending millions on these lawsuits is just egregious waste. And in many, many cases it is entirely preventable. Some police officers don’t seem to understand the severity of abusing their authority because there are no personal repercussions. If the city foots the bill, and they get a new job, where is the disincentive?

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