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The White House has been looking at problems with local law enforcement. Not only did the Justice Department issue its report on Ferguson, Missouri, but a presidential task force on 21st Century Policing issued a report in March.
In addition to the social costs, police misconduct costs money. One watchdog group found that Chicago paid out more than half a billion dollars over a 10-year period. How does the tab get so high?
Start with laywers: Scandalously bad policing is Jon Loevy’s bread-and-butter. He runs a for-profit law firm in Chicago, with 25 attorneys, built on big wins in police misconduct cases.
"We like to say it’s a non-depletable good — injustice," he says. "You know, there’s a million cases out there where people have their rights violated, or wrongfully convicted, or falsely arrested."
What’s tough is winning those cases, which can take years and lots of upfront investment.
"This is not for the faint of heart," says Loevy. "Because you don’t get paid unless you win."
So, having lawyers who are willing and able to take those cases on — and win them — is one variable.
Another is how a city responds to lawsuits. For years, the city of Chicago had a not-quite-official “no-settlements” policy, which is a strategy that may scare away some potential plaintiffs. However, it also means defending cases that are clear losers.
That gets expensive, says Lou Reiter, a law-enforcement consultant and former deputy chief of the Los Angeles police department. Juries will award more in damages than lawyers would settle for. "Then, the attorney gets reasonable fees on top of that," says Reiter. "And many times that’s much more than the actual jury verdict."
He consulted with the plaintiff's attorneys on an infamous Chicago case, in which an off-duty cop beat up a bartender in front of a security camera. The video went viral, and the city refused to settle. The jury awarded the woman $850,000, and the court gave her attorneys more than twice that amount.
Reiter thinks the city could have saved itself a lot of money. "Initially, they probably could have settled that for maybe two, three hundred thousand dollars," he says.
Legal fees, including payments to the city's own outside counsel, amounted to about a quarter of the city's $521 million police-misconduct tab, as tallied by the Better Government Association.
The city of Chicago didn’t comment for this story, but plaintiffs’ lawyers say Chicago’s policy has shifted since Rahm Emanuel became mayor in 2011.
"They've really moved to nip some of these cases in the bud," says Andrew Schroeder, a reporter for the BGA. "If they identify a case where they were clearly in the wrong, they are trying to settle that early on, before it results in an expensive judgment."
Chicago is not alone in facing these expenses. The Ramparts police scandal alone cost Los Angeles an estimated $125 million.
Demand for palm oil is destroying the habitat of endangered Sumatran orangutans. One group is working to rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce these often-orphaned primates back into the wild.
Borrowing, sampling, covering and other appropriation are commonplace among musicians, but an LA jury ruled Monday that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams took things too far with their monster hit "Blurred Lines." The court ruled the pair's track was a little too inspired by Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give it Up," and awarded Gaye's family about $7.4 million for copyright infringement.
The verdict could put artists more on notice when appropriating other tracks, says George Washington University Law Professor Robert Brauneis, who helps us unpack the complexities of the case.
Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.
This sea monster swam Earth's seas about 480 million years ago, and was the biggest creature of its day, scientists say.
Sitton's reporting from the front lines of the civil rights movement earned him the ire of southern officials and attention from the Department of Justice.
Rates of post-traumatic stress disorder are high among teens in northern Uganda, a new study shows. Counselors, teachers and parents can help. So can walking on eggs — literally.
All 31 banks subjected to the Federal Reserve's stress tests passed the first round last week, showing they can continue to lend even amid economic collapse. But the second round of results, due Wednesday, might not go quite as well for all the banks.21,944.66 points
That's where the Dow Jones Industrial average would have sat Tuesday, in theory, if Apple had joined in 2008 instead of Bank of America, Bloomberg reported. In reality, Apple joined this week, displacing AT&T and B of A left in 2013.Courtesy:Bloomberg 2 percent per square foot
Speaking of Apple, that's the portion of sales its retail stores pay for space in American malls, the Wall Street Journal reported. Compare that to the up to 15 percent other retailers typically pay per square foot. Apple has reportedly negotiated for lower rent because of their stores' massive draw.$10 billion
That's how much General Motors is giving back to shareholders in dividends and stock buyback, quelling a potential spat with activist investors. But the move could mean GM will lose some ground as it attempts to keep wages down during negotiations with the autoworkers union this summer.20
The number of deaths tied to film or TV production from 2010 to 2014, doubling the previous five years. An LA Times investigation found the uptick is tied in part to reality TV production and the drive to create thrilling footage$7.3 million
The damages an LA jury ordered "Blurred Lines" co-writers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay Marvin Gaye's family for infringing on Gaye's "Got to Give it Up" copyright with the 2013 megahit. Quartz joins the flurry of "soundalike" lists with a playlist, so you can decide for yourself who's a copycat and who's not.
GM announced this week it’ll give shareholders $5 billion in dividends and a $5 billion stock buyback. That’s good news for investors, and for GM, which managed to avoid a major clash with hedge fund interests on the board.
Times are good for automakers like GM. But when the company opens negotiations with the United Autoworkers Union this summer, it’s going to try to keep a lid on wages, says Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry and Labor Group at the Center for Automotive Research.
The union will think, "If they had the kind of money that they had to pay out for this stock play, they’ve got money to fund what the union is looking for,” she says.
Some workers haven’t had a raise in more than eight years. And Dziczek says the UAW says the ones who did still aren’t earning enough.
Ross Eisenbrey, vice-president of the Economic Policy Institute, says GM can increase share prices at the risk of everything else, or take the long view: investing in new equipment and the workforce. He says GM has to balance all of those things against a desire to reward shareholders.