Much has been made of the growing number of police brutality cases after the recent deaths of unarmed black men committed by white police officers. More and more attorneys are taking on allegations of police misconduct. The trend is driven by the lure of big settlements, a growing body of evidence as more alleged victims record police interactions, and a high demand from potential clients who want to go after police departments they see as corrupt.
Cities are more willing to pay out increased monetary settlements and court judgments. The 10 largest municipal police departments in the U.S. paid a combined $248.7 million in 2014, an increase of 48 percent since 2010, according to data gathered by The Wall Street Journal. Claims filed against the New York Police Department rose 71 percent from 2004 to 2013, according to a 2014 report by the New York City Comptroller’s Office. The choking death of Eric Garner by a New York Police Department officer in July 2014 alone brought his family a $5.9 million settlement from New York City, the largest NYPD-related wrongful death settlement in history. Seattle has seen a rise in these cases and increased settlements as well.