CLEVELAND -- The city has spent at least $8 million in the last decade to plaintiffs who claimed they were victims of police misconduct and excessive force, a Channel 3 News investigation found.
The payments were either the result of jury verdicts that found the city liable for police wrongdoing or of settlements reached with plaintiffs prior to a trial, according to a review of documents obtained under the Ohio Open Public Records Act.
"There seems to be a pattern of rogue cops who continue to abuse the rights of citizens," said attorney Terry Gilbert, who has successfully brought a number of actions against the city.
"It is a heavy burden on the city."
Channel 3 News requested the records in the wake of the November, 2012 high-speed chase that ended with two suspects killed by Cleveland police.
While the city and the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation continue to probe the shooting in which 13 officers fired 137 shots, the families of victims Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams have already hired attorneys in anticipation of a possible civil lawsuit.
The actuall tally could be much higher than $8 million because the city's law department does not track every payout made as a result of a jury verdict or settlement, said Kim Roberson, the public records administrator.
It also doesn't include the cost of defending the actions of police.
Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, said the officers he represents are simply protecting themselves in excessive force situations.
In fact, he couldn't recall an officer being disciplined by the city for excessive force.
"We don't try to make things bad," said Follmer. "The bad is brought on us. If you have an active officer and he's going out there making arrests, not every arrest goes smooth."
Police misconduct cases not only cost taxpayers, they also take their toll on victims.
The mother of Ricardo Mason, who reached a $1 million settlement in 2008 after Mason was gunned down by two officers, said she is still afraid of police.
"I tell everybody just to do what they say," she said. "You never know what kind of day they're having, if they're in a bad mood, if somebody ticked them off."