Study: When a plaintiff recovers in
a damages action against the government, who foots the bill? In prior work, I found that individual police officers virtually never pay anything toward settlements and judgments entered against them. But this finding prompts another question: Where does the money come from, if not from individual officers? The dominant view among those who have considered this question is that settlements and judgments are usually paid from jurisdictions’ general funds with no financial impact on the involved law enforcement agencies, and some have suggested that agencies would have stronger incentives to improve behavior were they required to pay settlements and judgments from their budgets. But, beyond anecdotal information about the practices in a few large agencies, there has been no empirical inquiry into the source of funds used by governments to satisfy suits involving the police.