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$9.5M Settlement Approved by Chicago City Council for Yet Another Excessive Force Case

by Derek Gilna

The Chicago City Council approved yet another multi-million dollar settlement for excessive force on September 5, 2017, but this time, some members complained about the steep tab.  

Jose Lopez was rendered permanently disabled after being Tased by a Chicago Police Officer. After a two-week trial, the jury found the officer used excessive force in the 2011 Taser incident that left Lopez a quadriplegic in need of round-the-clock care for the rest of his life. The jury did not decide on a damage award, but it could have been more than the $9.5 million settlement amount.

In an effort to prevent an even larger damage award, the City Council reluctantly approved the settlement. The epidemic of excessive force complaints and lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department has cost taxpayers more than $600 million since 2004. The Aldermen seemed more focused on the money than the underlying systemic problems that have led to the payouts. Until they are addressed and corrected, the city will continue paying out millions to victims of police abuse.

Lopez was being treated for severe chest pains by Chicago paramedics when he allegedly became uncooperative and combative. Several police officers attempted to subdue him, but eventually, an officer decided to use a Taser on him. After being Tased, Lopez fell backwards and hit his head on the pavement.  

Aldermen Nick Sposato (38th) and George Cardenas (12th) were unhappy with the settlement. Sposato complained, “As someone who votes against more of these settlements than anybody, we don’t have a choice in this $9.5 million. None of us want to pay this $9.5 million, but we have no choice,” as the Council approved the settlement. Cardenas stated that police and paramedics were only “protecting themselves” from Lopez. Nevertheless, a jury determined that police used excessive force in subduing and “protecting themselves.”

Cardenas also whined that, “It’s just hard to fully understand some of these cases. We’re trying as a city to hold the line on expenses and things are just coming at us from all angles.”  “It’s hard to stop the violence. People are scared. Police officers are scared doing their jobs. Everybody’s scared of doing anything because we see this time and time again. I don’t know … what’s the aftermath of all this. But we’ve got to take stock, go back and see how we can do things differently for the benefit of our constituents and taxpayers.” Hopefully, that includes additional training, oversight, and accountability for the police.                                                                              

Sources: http://chicago.suntimes.com, www.chicagotribune.com

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