Police misconduct in Philadelphia, by the numbers

Since 2009, Philly PD has settled 29 shooting lawsuits, for a total of $13,139,500

Written by Todd Feathers
Edited by JPat Brown

The city of Philadelphia has paid out more than $40 million in damages and settlements as a result of nearly 600 misconduct lawsuits brought against the police department since 2009, according to data provided by the cities under public records requests.

The numbers dwarf comparable statistics in other major cities for which MuckRock obtained the same data.

For example, the cities of Indianapolis, San Francisco, San Jose, and Austin settled or lost a combined 122 police misconduct cases - compared to 586 cases in Philadelphia.

As of the 2010 census, those four cities had a combined population more than double Philadelphia’s estimated 1,526,006 residents.

For this article, MuckRock analyzed lists of civil lawsuits brought against the cities’ police departments, which were obtained through public records requests. The data only includes cases brought since Jan. 1, 2009, not all cases closed since 2009.

We sorted out cases brought as a result of alleged actions that we determined to be police misconduct – wrongful shooting deaths, excessive force, illegal searches, etc.

We chose not to include lawsuits that appeared to arise out of negligence rather than intentional police actions, such as car crashes involving police cruisers.

In some instances, where the nature of the case could not be determined, we excluded lawsuits.

The original list we received from the Philadelphia Law Department consisted of 1,745 cases, which the department had sorted into categories based on the nature of the lawsuit.

We determined that 1223 of those cases represented police misconduct lawsuits. Of those, the city settled 584 and lost two, roughly 48 percent, at an average of $69,401 per lawsuit.

The most expensive settlements – both for $2,500,000 – arose from the police-involved shootings of Stephen Moore and Jamil Moses.

Moore was shot in November 2011 while in the home he had shared with his deceased wife. The officer involved, Larry Shields, was responding to a report of an intruder in the building, which had been called in by Moore’s parents-in-law, who wanted him to move out of the house.

Moore told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he walked down the stairs of his home to investigate his security alarm, which began ringing when the officer entered the building. As he reached the bottom steps, Shields opened fire without saying a word.

Moore survived the shooting, after undergoing four operations.

A month before that incident, Shields had been acquitted of guilt in the shooting of Joshua Taylor in East Frankford. Taylor was charged with attempted murder as a result of the incident because he pointed a gun at Shields, who was off-duty, before the officer opened fire.

Taylor is also suing Shields and the city, but the case has been stayed pending the conclusion of his criminal trial.

Moses was fatally shot in February 2012, according to the Inquirer.

The police account and that of Moses’ family’s lawyer conflict, but what appears certain is that the incident began with Moses and another man, Frederick Bell, leading police on a chase in a stolen car.

The chase ended when the car, driven by Bell, collided with a cruiser.

The police claimed they saw the two men reach under their seats, as if for a gun. The officers opened fire, shooting 62 rounds, killing Moses, and injuring Bell.

No gun was found at the scene.

In total, Philadelphia settled 29 shooting lawsuits for a total of $13,139,500 during the time period MuckRock reviewed. 38 other shooting lawsuits were dismissed or otherwise ended without the city paying the plaintiffs any money.

Shooting settlements made up 34 percent of the total payouts, followed closely by excessive force cases at 33 percent.

The two racial profiling settlements – for a total of $14,500 - were the fewest of any misconduct category listed in the documents.

Take a look at the docs yourself on the request page, or download the spreadsheet directly here. As always, if you find anything interesting, let us know at info@muckrock.com.


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