The City of Philadelphia has agreed to a settlement of $9.25 million with 343 plaintiffs who sued the city, alleging police misconduct during the civil unrest following George Floyd’s killing in 2020. The lawsuit claimed that the police used “excessive and unreasonable force” on protesters, resulting in physical injuries requiring medical treatment, hospitalization, and emotional distress. The police had used tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray, and in some cases, arrested participants and bystanders.
As part of the settlement, the city agreed to disengage from the 1033 program, a federal initiative that provides military weapons and equipment to state and local law enforcement. The city also pledged to offer a grant of $500,000 to $600,000 to the Bread & Rose Community Fund to provide free mental health counseling and community-led programming for residents living within the 52nd Street corridor in West Philadelphia, irrespective of their involvement in the lawsuit.
However, the settlement did not include any admission of liability or wrongdoing by the defendants, and the city continues to deny any wrongdoing. The Legal Defense Fund hailed the settlement as an “unprecedented” step towards accountability and justice for the Philadelphia Police Department’s excessive use of force during the 2020 protests.
The controversy over police conduct during protests has become a subject of national attention following George Floyd’s death, and the Philadelphia settlement is another example of the public’s demand for police reform. The Police Commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, stated that the department would learn from this experience and strive towards protecting the first amendment rights of protestors while ensuring safety in the communities.
The settlement has also been praised by Cara McClellan, the director and practice associate professor of the Advocacy for Racial and Civil Justice Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania, who called it a recognition of the damage the Philadelphia Police Department had caused throughout West Philadelphia and an affirmation of the importance of community-centered healing.