GENDER DIFFERENCES IN
THE COST OF POLICE BRUTALITY AND MISCONDUCT
September 5, 2000
Katherine Spillar, National Coordinator,
Feminist Majority Foundation
A CONTENT ANALYSIS OF LAPD CIVIL LIABILITY CASES: 1990-1999
This study was conducted to analyze and quantify the gender aspects of the escalating cost of police brutality and misconduct in the Los Angeles Police Department. Data for the study was developed by reviewing the Los Angeles City Attorney's report on Police Litigation, 1990-1999, information available from Los Angeles City Council files, Los Angeles City Council Committee on Budget and Finance reports, and court pleadings including the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's answer. All court pleadings, City Council files, and Council Committee on Budget and Finance reports are public domain documents.
The study analyzed police-related lawsuits (127 cases) against the City of Los Angeles and individual LAPD officers between 1990 through 1999 involving judgments or out-of-court settlements exceeding $100,000. Only data from cases falling into the following categories were included in the study: the use of excessive force allegations1, police officer involved sexual assault, and police officer involved domestic violence. By excluding traffic accident lawsuits, four lawsuits involving hundreds of LAPD officers on duty at public demonstrations or "gang sweep" operations in which the identity of the officers engaging in the use of excessive force could not be determined from the case files, and cases missing or falling outside the aforementioned categories, the research sample of 127 narrows to 80 lawsuits. The gender of the officers could be determined in 78 of the 80 lawsuits.
The City of Los Angeles paid in excess of $67.8 million in judgments and settlements in the 80 lawsuits included in the study involving the use of excessive force, police officer involved sexual assault, sexual abuse, molestation and domestic violence. The researchers note that the $67.8 million does not measure the LAPD's and the City's total cost exposure; unaccounted for are the millions of dollars the City spent in defending against these civil suits. Nor does the study include prospective or currently pending lawsuits stemming from the Rampart Division scandal, which are estimated to cost upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars.
· Female officers were involved in excessive force lawsuits at rates substantially below their male counterparts, and no female officers were named as defendants in cases of police officer involved sexual assault, sexual abuse, molestation, and domestic violence. Of the $66.3 million in judgments or out-of-court settlements paid out by the City of Los Angeles for which the gender of the officer(s) could be determined, $63.4 million (or 95.8%) was attributable to male officers' misconduct. In contrast, $2.8 million (or 4.2%) of total payouts were attributable to female officers' misconduct.
· Although the overall ratio of male to female police officers and sergeants serving in a patrol capacity from 1990-1999 was 4:1,2 payouts on cases involving male officers' misconduct exceeded payouts on cases involving female officers by a ratio of 23:1. The numbers of male officers involved in or at the scene of an incident exceeded the numbers of female officers involved by a ratio of more than 9:1.
· Male police officers disproportionately accounted for the excessive force lawsuit payouts involving killings and assault and battery: male officer payouts for killings exceeded female officer payouts by a ratio of 43:1 and male officer payouts exceeded female officer payouts for assault and battery by a ratio of 32:1.
· Often in cases where female officers were present at the scene of an excessive force incident, it appears they were not directly involved in the use of excessive force. Of the 27 female officers involved in or at the scene of an excessive force incident, only 15 were alleged to be directly involved in the use of excessive force. Moreover, not one female police officer was named in more than one lawsuit, while some male officers were defendants in more than one case, evidencing a pattern of use of excessive force among these male officers.
LAPD BRUTALITY AND MISCONDUCT CIVIL LIABILITY CASES: 1990-1999
Note: When lawsuits alleged more than one complaint against the defendant officer(s), the study analyzed the most serious allegation reported by the complainant.
· Particular attention is warranted to the eight lawsuits that emerged from the research involving police officers involved in sexual assault, sexual abuse, molestation, and domestic violence. The largest settlement includes a lawsuit involving a male officer who sexually battered a minor in her own home during the course of a response to a police call ($6.3 million in Diaz v. City & Tanabe). Allegations of sexual assault also arose in Trujillo v. City, where a male LAPD Sergeant sexually molested four minor plaintiffs while on duty, in uniform, and in a police car ($500,000). The City also paid in excess of $1.5 million in Wynn v. City, a lawsuit that arose after Officer Victor Ramos used his city-issued firearm to shoot and kill his ex-wife and her boyfriend, and then turned the gun on himself. The Los Angeles Police Department had prior knowledge of Ramos' violent domestic history, having earlier removed his gun for a short period following his violent threats against his former wife at her place of employment while he was on-duty. Ramos' gun was returned to him shortly before his murder spree.
· In all, the City of Los Angeles incurred $10.4 million in judgments and settlements in cases involving male police officers sued for sexual assault, sexual abuse, molestation, and domestic violence. There were no female officers involved or named as defendants in any of these cases. The real costs to the community, however, are even greater - both in financial and human terms. Given that domestic violence represents the single largest category of calls made to police departments, and that tens of thousands of women are physically assaulted each year in Los Angeles, failure by police to effectively respond to crimes of violence against women not only has particularly high consequences for women in the community, but impacts the credibility and community trust in the LAPD.
More than 25 years of exhaustive research shows that women do the job of policing equally as well as men, responding to similar calls and encountering similar dangers. But more importantly, the research shows that women hold the key for substantially decreasing police violence and its cost. This new study confirms earlier research both in the United States and internationally that shows women police officers are less authoritarian, and rely less on physical force and more on verbal skills in handling altercations than their male counterparts. As a result, women police officers are better at defusing potentially violent confrontations with citizens and are less likely to become involved in problems with excessive force than male police officers. The full integration of women into the LAPD is an opportunity for a constructive solution to the costly problems of police brutality and misconduct.
1 Including the negligent use of a less than lethal weapon, negligent restraint tactic, killing, shooting, canine, assault and battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, and police pursuit
2 Based on percentage of women and men Police Officers I, II, III, and Sergeants I and II who are most likely to serve in a patrol capacity and thus have the highest probability of becoming involved in a violent confrontation with citizens due to the nature of their policing assignment. Overall, women comprised an average of 16.1% of all sworn law enforcement personnel in the LAPD between 1990-1999. Source: Equal Employment Opportunities Division of the LAPD.
3 Represents 7 cases, involving 2 false arrest/imprisonment cases, an illegal search, 2 vehicular assaults, and 2 police canine attacks.
4 Of the $67.8 million paid by the City of Los Angeles for the 80 lawsuits included in the study, $1.5 million was paid out where the gender of the officer(s) could not be determined by the case files.