A small group of 124 police officers have reportedly cost the city of Chicago $34 million in misconduct-related lawsuits since 2009.
A recent review by the Chicago Tribune found that the same group of 124 officers were named in over a third of the misconduct lawsuits settled with the city in the last six years, suggesting that officers who engaged in misconduct tended to do it repeatedly. The study also revealed that 82 percent of the city's police force of roughly 12,000 officers have never been identified in a lawsuit.
According to the results of the Tribune's investigation, the complaints against these 124 officers have occurred mainly in relatively safe, low-crime neighborhoods, contrary to the claim of police union officials that misconduct tends to happen while patrolling crime-ridden areas.
More than 1,100 cases of police misconduct have been settled with the city since 2009. Of these, a small percentage involved allegations of fatal shootings, brutality and wrongful prosecutions, while the bulk of them constituted less serious incidents such as false arrests, making racial slurs, and misconduct while off duty.
About 5 percent of the lawsuits were settled for more than $1 million.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that more needs to be done to rid the department of misbehaving officers.
"This has been an issue for decades and there is no question the department needs to do a better job identifying officers with problematic behavior to hold them accountable and restore trust in the police," Guglielmi wrote in an email to the Chicago Tribune.
He added that a newly formed Task Force on Police Accountability, as well as a recently launched investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, will focus on implementing an "early intervention" program to root out police misconduct in the department.
One officer, Sean Campbell, has been named in seven misconduct lawsuits in the past six years, tying for the second-highest number in the department.
The 17-year police veteran and his partner, Steven Sautkus, were notably accused of harassing a local man, Jonathan Guzman, over a period of months in 2014. Guzman's suit, which accused the two officers of racially-charged harassment, was settled for $35,000 in 2015.
City authorities have stepped up their efforts to investigate police misconduct after the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, by Chicago police in October 2014.
The teen was reportedly shot 16 times.
The two officers involved in the shooting were removed from patrol duty after video footage of the incident surfaced that appeared to contradict their statements of what had happened, according to USA Today.