Bankrupt Cities

San Bernardino Police Abuse Victims May Get Screwed Over by Bankruptcy

Families could end up with just pennies on the dollar.

|

"Oh no, there goes our hero cop narrative! But we only just got it!"
Credit: Chris Yarzab / photo on flickr

One of the last straws that reportedly forced San Bernardino's hand in declaring bankruptcy was an attempt to collect settlements against the California city.

Back in 2012, when San Bernardino first declared bankruptcy (and is still, years later, trying to hammer out a path out), The (San Bernardino) Sun reported that an attorney was attempting to collect $1.4 million the city had agreed to pay in three separate settlements. The attorney's efforts covered three cases where men were killed in violent encounters with police, and the circumstances had been challenged. The city agreed to pay $525,000, $575,000, and $686,000 for the three incidents.

The problem, though, was that the city discovered that, thanks to the apparent misreporting of the city's finances for years, if the city paid these settlements, they wouldn't have any money to make the next payroll. And thus, bankruptcy happened.

Today, three and a half years later, The Wall Street Journal reports that the city wants to find its way out of bankruptcy by wriggling out of its police abuse settlements. And the number of families affected is much more than three. Sheryl Nash, mother of Terry Wayne Jackson, one of the three men killed above, may get just a pittance:

City officials now say they can't afford to pay Mr. Jackson's mother or the more than 100 others who have sued San Bernardino for injuries and deaths allegedly caused by its police officers and employees.

Under the city's recent proposal to exit bankruptcy protection that still needs a judge's approval, she might get only 1% of what the city settled for: $6,860. …

San Bernardino's police department has been hit hard by the city's financial problems, losing 30% of its officers in recent years despite the city's high violent-crime rate. Under the bankruptcy plan, the city would spend $56.5 million in the next five years to hire more officers and buy new vehicles.

The plan, however, would inflict some of the deepest cuts on people who have sued over incidents of alleged police brutality or excessive force. San Bernardino faced 109 lawsuits seeking a total of $19 million in "personal injury and bodily injury" claims against the city and its employees as of Nov. 25.

The Wall Street Journal notes that Detroit got permission to cut its settlements down to less than 15 percent as part of its bankruptcy deal.

Mind you, city employees and police in San Bernardino have fought tooth and nail against any bankruptcy solutions that would take money or benefits from them, of course, which is has been partly why the city has been unable to complete the process.

NEXT: What "Joy" Gets That "The Social Network" Didn't: Capitalism Doesn't Require Tragic Heroes

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. why not raid the pension fund to pay the settlements?

    1. Like there’s actual money in that.

  2. If they can’t pay the agree settlement, then the family should be able to legally sue after the bankruptcy proceedings are finished. They failed to come up with the money agreed upon in settlements out of court, so the contract that the family won’t sue should be null and void. The payments for damages will also not exist until after the proceeding are already done with, so they can’t be wiped away by bankruptcy.

    1. This is why when you draft a release, you make its effectiveness contingent on first receiving the money. Sure hope the families’ attorneys did that.

    2. My understanding is that, if the settlement was in satisfaction of removing the tort, then it’s handled like a contract entered into prior to the bankruptcy proceeding and there’s no longer a cause of action for the underlying tort. They can sue for breach of contract, but I don’t think they have priority over other creditors. I could be wrong; I could see a settlement for personal injury having enough of a tort character.

      1. It depends if they’ve released their claims.

    3. That would require statutory exemptions to discharge in the Bankruptcy Code itself. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Congress to make those changes.

  3. Mind you, city employees and police in San Bernardino have fought tooth and nail against any bankruptcy solutions that would take money or benefits from them, of course, which is has been partly why the city has been unable to complete the process.

    Hey, they did their civic duty, which was to keep San Bernardino the meth-infested shithole it was born to be. Let them retire in peace.

    1. It sure sounds like a fun city, what with the terrorist shooting, cops beating innocent people to death and the city essentially broke.

      Is it at least close to the beach or something?

        1. And unattended house fires as well!

          Probably great movie sets available for cheap!

          1. You could probably blow up an entire neighborhood without using CGI.

            1. And property values would go up by an order of magnitude.

        2. There’s always the Santa Ana “River”.

        3. I know! For fun, we could pound sand.

    2. I’ve said it before:

      The worst place I’ve ever been was San Bernardino. By a long shot.

      I was coming back from Palm Desert with my 7 year old (then 5) on the 10. We could see a huge plume of smoke from about 30 miles away. As we got closer, it was clear that it was a very large structure fire. I asked my kid “Hey, you want to go see a fire?” (that’s the kind of dad I am). So we got on the 215 from the 10, went about 2 exits down, and I got off where I thought the fire was. After turning down a few side streets, we found it. 3 houses fully engulfed in flames. No fire department anywhere, and no police either. This thing had been burning for about 30 minutes that I had seen, probably longer.

      I think it’s safe to say that these people haven’t “earned” their public safety pensions.

      I’ll refrain from describing that neighborhood further, other than to say that it looked like a slum in a 3rd world country.

      1. As we got closer, it was clear that it was a very large structure fire. I asked my kid “Hey, you want to go see a fire?” (that’s the kind of dad I am)

        It’s called being a good dad.

        1. Some people, moms in particular, don’t appreciate that sort of thing.

          1. Thankfully my mom wasn’t one of them. She was fully game for taking off cross country to try and find the fire. Unfortunately there was a river between us and seeing distance, so we had to give up after being unable to find a bridge.

          2. That’s why Moms should be at work, earning the living.

  4. Today, three and a half years later, The Wall Street Journal reports that the city wants to find its way out of bankruptcy by wriggling out of its police abuse settlements.

    Stop right there… so police abuse settlements DO cost the city money– so firing bad cops is ipso facto a money saver and financially prudent.

    1. I think the goal for cities is to be in bankruptcy proceedings for perpetuity. Then they can keep their bad cops. The unions know this and therefore negotiate for 400K annual pensions in the hopes they can actually get 80K annually.

  5. OT: Funny how that works when you demand that the Police be your sole option for self-defense:

    “Well, one, they have my TV set. And two, they are actively threatening me and telling me they know where I live,” he said. “Why, (in Seattle) can’t I get a police officer come to assist me when I’m actively being threatened. It was a huge wake up call. About an hour later, police showed up. They basically told me that there is a hands-off order when it comes to homelessness.”

    http://mynorthwest.com/11/2887…..iminal-RVs

    1. *makes note of (obviously) of hermaphrodite handle and reports unsavory comments to police.*

  6. “Mind you, city employees and police in San Bernardino have fought tooth and nail against any bankruptcy solutions that would take money or benefits from them, of course, which is has been partly why the city has been unable to complete the process.”

    Regardless of whether they should have these benefits, they do. What else do you expect them to do other than fight for what they were promised?

    1. Regardless of whether they should have these benefits, they do. What else do you expect them to do other than fight for what they were promised? knowingly took from the taxpayers

  7. Cities usually carry insurance policies for these types of settlements. Bankrupt burgs like San Berdoo probably let the policies expire – which ought to mean then that the officer is personally liable.

  8. One word: Berardollars ($B).

  9. Stupid punk cops, hope they all get sued personally and lose everything they have. Losers.

    http://www.Full-VPN.tk

  10. So when the state declares bankruptcy, then “the people” get to take it over, don’t have to pay the extortion rate (taxes) and aren’t slaves to it anymore?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.