Orlando police lawsuit settlements costing taxpayers

ORLANDO, Fla. — 9 Investigates found out that millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on settling lawsuits against the Orlando Police Department, and many of them deal with officer misconduct.

City records for the past four years show the Police Department paid more than $3.3 million in settlements.

"Everyone should be outraged. That's a lot of money," said Lawanna Gelzer, with the National Action Network.

The settlements were related to 47 separate lawsuits filed against Orlando police during those years.

"Right away you think that's a high number. It sounds like a high number and I believe it is a high number," said law enforcement expert Chuck Drago.

The $3.3 million is enough money to hire 71 new police officers, according to records. Drago said although the amount seems high, it's important not to generalize.

"You have to look at each individual case and figure it out," said Drago.

The records show 14 lawsuits were for false arrest and nine were filed for use of excessive force.

"Is there a better way to do it? Do the officers need to be trained better in certain areas? Do the policies need to be changed?" asked Drago.

Drago believes every law enforcement agency should be trying to cut down on the numbers of lawsuits filed against it.

On Friday, two Orlando police officers were just arrested and charged with allegedly battering suspects during an arrest. One of those cases has already stemmed into a lawsuit filed against the city.

"The community is suffering because we have law enforcement that's not doing the proper jobs," said Gelzer.

Channel 9 reached out to the Orlando Police Department, which released a statement regarding the lawsuits:

"The Orlando Police Department takes every claim seriously. During our 2014 End of Year Review, we compared the number of encounters our officers have with the public, to the number of Response to Resistance Incidents, and the number of excessive use of force complaints. Out of all our calls for service, .00076% resulted in a sustained complaint of excessive use of force."

2014 Stats

Calls for Service: 394,288

Arrests: 16,567

Traffic Stops & Suspicious Contacts: 114,651

Response to Resistance Incidents: 610 (3.68%)

Excessive Use of Force Complaints: 10 (.060%)

Excessive Use of Force Complaints Sustained: 3(.018%)