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City To Add $415K Rape Settlement To Its Tally Of Police Misconduct Payouts

By Rachel Cromidas in News on May 6, 2015 2:10PM

The cost of police misconduct is getting steeper for the city, with a City Council committee signing off on plans to pay $415,000 to a woman who said she was raped by two officers in 2011.

The full council is slated to vote on the plan today. The woman's horrifying story would be the latest in a string of costly police misconduct payouts the city has had to make in recent years.

This case began with a March 2011 incident in which two uniformed officers, Paul Clavijo and Juan Vasquez, offered to drive an intoxicated 22-year-old woman home to Rogers Park from the Addison Street Red Line station in the early morning. The woman said the officers stopped at a store to buy alcohol and while one was out of the squad car, the other committed a "nonconsensual" sex act, according to DNAinfo. Once at the woman's apartment, the woman said the officers repeatedly sexually assaulted her until she was able to flee her apartment and call for help from neighbors.

DNA tests show that both officers had sex with the woman and they pled guilty to official misconduct and resigned from the force last year. They were sentenced to probation.

The woman, who says she now suffers PTSD and depression stemming from the attacks, originally demanded $2.7 million in damages, which the city negotiated down in a settlement.

While $415,000 still sounds like a lot, it’s a fraction of the $54.2 million in settlements, verdicts and attorneys' fees the city paid in 2014 alone, according to law enforcement data. And that excludes the average of $7.1 million a year the city pays its own lawyers to defend these cases.

Police misconduct, which includes a range of behaviors such as the excessive use of force, unlawful search and seizure, inappropriate medical attention and the improper handling of evidence, is an ongoing problem for the city. At least 662 police officers had more than ten misconduct complaints each between May 2001 and May 2006, according to data the city provided to the public for the first time in 2014.

Besides the unquantifiable toll these incidents can take on the physical and mental wellbeing of their victims and families, there’s a very obvious financial cost to the city. And that cost is about a billion dollars over the past decade, according to an analysis by the Better Government Association. A good chunk of that money could be thanks to an unofficial city policy of never settling cases that once meant city lawyers had to fight even the most clearcut cases against it.

As the BGA reported, that kind of money—we repeat, half a billion dollars—could finance the construction of five state-of-the-art high schools, repave 500 miles of arterial streets or build 33 libraries with up-to-date public computers and landscaped gardens. It also comes close to covering the ballooning police and fire pension fund payment the city owes this year. In comparison, New York City paid nearly the same amount of money in police abuse and misconduct cases between 2009 and 2014, so it could be worse.

The Burge Reparations Fund for victims of Jon Burge, the former police commander accused of torture, represents one of the biggest payouts in recent years. Plans to put $5.5 million into the fund, with a maximum of $100,000 per victim, is making its way through the City Council. The city has already paid over $60 million in Burge settlements, but activists have argued it hasn’t gone far enough.

In April, the City Council’s finance committee approved a $5 million settlement in the death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was shot by police 16 times.