“I’m wondering how aware her administration is of this policy. It’s being used to harm citizens,” Hendrix told me.
It’s part of a pattern in how the city has dealt with police brutality cases for decades, in an attempt to make it very difficult for citizens to be compensated when police officers overstep their bounds. It often starts with trumped up resisting arrest charges. Even when presented with evidence that it was a citizen who was assaulted, and not the other way around, the city has historically had a policy that it will not drop charges unless the citizen agrees not to sue the city for damages.
For the city to then go after a citizen for about $50,000 worth of attorney fees because they didn’t win every single count of a lawsuit is way over the top, says Waldron. It creates a barrier for poor people to have access to the municipal and county courts by making the costs too high, either through fines and fees, or, in this case, a punitive legal action.
“Even if you go to court and even if you win a civil rights lawsuit against a police officer, you could still be targeted for financial punishment by the city,” says Maureen Hanlon, another of Hendrix’ attorneys. “These fees are a way to try to punish people for standing up for their rights.”