by Ben Keller
Cities in the. U.S. issue bonds to pay their debts for police brutality and misconduct lawsuits to investment firms and banks. The banks collect fees and the investors collect interest, which can sometimes double the cost of the original price — as well as their profit margins.
When cities exceed their budgets for settlements related to police brutality and misconduct, they use taxpayer-funded bonds with these high interest rates to cover the cost of police brutality lawsuits, according to a report issued last month by the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE).
“Victims and their families deserve to be compensated. The payments they receive are a paltry sum for the harm they suffer at the hands of killer cops,” Saqib Bhatti from ACRE said.
“However, it’s unconscionable that banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs get a cut when a crooked cop kills an innocent person.”
“Some of our nation’s largest corporate entities have made $1 billion in profits off of police violence,” Maurice BP-Weeks of ACRE said. “While we fight to hold violent officers and police departments accountable to our communities, we must also work to hold banks and investors accountable for their role in perpetuating and profiting from our existing system.”
The report included data from 12 cities and counties, including five case studies in Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Lake County, Indiana.
ACRE estimates $1.87 billion has been spent on public debt from judgement costs stemming from police violence and brutality lawsuits.
Of that $1.87 billion in costs tied to police brutality bonds, more than half, a total of $1 billion, was profit for investors.
And that’s only in those 12 cities.
“I’m outraged because our communities struggle from poverty and disinvestment while banks profit from the bloodshed by dishonest police officers,” Janice Peters, a community organizer with the Action Now in Chicago, said.
“This ACRE report confirms what Black youth as young as 11-years-old have been saying for the past 8 months,” Makeda Roberson-Vickery from the Black Youth Project 100 said.
“Chicago spends 40 percent of its budget on policing, not including money spent on police settlements, but the city can’t find money for mental health services, housing, schools and all the community resources that actually keep communities safe.”
Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th ward) introduced a resolution calling for hearings into Chicago’s routine use of police brutality bonds after the report was issued.
“It is estimated that the City of Chicago has spent over $800 million on police-related settlements since 2004 and borrowed hundreds of million using police brutality bonds to make the payments,” he said.
“While big banks profit from racist policing, our communities face record school closures, crumbling infrastructure and lack of access to social services. We need a Chicago that invests in our Black and Brown communities and holds police accountable for their crimes.”
ACRE is currently encouraging the public to sign their petition against police brutality bonds and calling on public officials, police, cities and Wall Street to end policies that enable cycles of economic and physical violence in Black and Brown neighborhoods.
The group also intends to push for policy changes in order to improve police training and financial accountability for individual officers.
Read the full report here.