In addition to having to deal with inept politicians and their respective police forces being harassed and assaulted across the U.S., cities are also starting to face another hurdle: lawsuits are stacking up alleging “police brutality” in dealing with “peaceful” protesters.
The New York ACLU, for example, has sued Mayor Bill de Blasio and police leadership and officers for how the city responded to protests over the summer, claiming NYPD used “brutal force”, according to Bloomberg.
Which is funny, because all we remember seeing from the summer was property destruction, looting, boarded up businesses and all hell generally breaking loose while Mayor De Blasio appeared to do nothing at all.
But, we digress. Regardless of whether they have merit, the lawsuits in New York and in other cities create even more financial liabilities for many U.S. cities that are already under distress. Similar cases are also being filed in Omaha, Nebraska; Los Angeles; New York; and Minneapolis.
A lawsuit filed this week against the NYPD said that they “unnecessarily used tools like batons and pepper spray on demonstrators and deployed tactics like kettling, in which police surround and trap a group in a location.”
Otherwise known as maintaining law and order.
The lawsuit, which also claims false imprisonment, alleges that the tactics resulted in a broken arm for one plaintiff. Daniel Lambright, an ACLU attorney, said: “What everybody saw in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder was egregious police misconduct and violations of protesters’ rights across the country but particularly in New York City. We don’t think there was a ‘bad apple’ problem. We think these were part of policies and practices endorsed by the mayor and the commissioner.”
Yes, the same mayor who, as far as we can remember, has worked to decriminalize everything he can get his hands on, from turnstile jumpers to people who urinate in public.
De Blasio commented: “From what I’ve heard of the lawsuit’s allegation, it doesn’t sound right at all to me. You know, there’s been a conscious effort for seven years now to change the relationship between the NYPD and communities.”
The lawsuits put economic pressure on cities when they can least afford it. State and local governments face a $467 billion decline in revenue from 2020 to 2022 as a result of the pandemic, Bloomberg notes:
In some localities, public safety already exceeds a third of general fund spending. Louisville, Kentucky, where Breonna Taylor was killed by police in March, spends 29% of its general fund budget on police. In Minnesota and Omaha, it’s 35% and 36%, respectively. New York City spends nearly 6% of its vast general fund on police, which comes out to more than $5 billion. Misconduct payouts are a further way departments pull on city purse strings.
Ironically, Joanna Schwartz, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, said that the lawsuits – filed against several cities where “defunding the police” is being called for by protesters – would “force cities to spend more on police”.