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Study Shows Reassigning Problem Cops Could Have Saved Chicago More than $6 Million in Lawsuit Payouts

by Dale Chappell

A study by Northwestern University concluded that by simply reassigning officers with the most citizen complaints could have saved the Chicago Police Department more than $6 million in lawsuit payouts between 2009 and 2014.

“The belief that a small number of officers are responsible for an outsized share of the problems is widespread,” Northwest University Pritzker School of Law professor Max Schanzenbach said. The study seemingly confirms this belief. It found that citizen allegations against an officer is an accurate predictor that only a handful of officers is responsible for most of the problematic conduct resulting in payouts.

Factoring in that some officers would receive more complaints because of the area they worked, researchers said citizen complaints could be a reliable “early warning intervention system.”

When Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald in 2014, he had already amassed more than 20 citizen complaints for misconduct. Van Dyke’s record placed him in the worst 3 percent of Chicago’s nearly 12,000 officers, the study showed.

The study recommends that police departments take citizen complaints seriously and use them as a proactive measure to avoid incidents with problem officers. “Intervention should focus on a relatively small group of high-risk officers,” Schanzenbach said. 




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