“Across the country, city and county budgets reflect an investment in criminalization
and a divestment in the services that actually contribute to public safety. Especially
egregious is that as the cost of police misconduct increases, the communities that
police brutalize are going into debt to pay for it. Often this debt is in the form of bond
borrowing, meaning that when cities or counties issue bonds to pay these costs, banks and
other firms collect fees for the services they provide and investors collect interest.
We call the bonds used to cover police-related settlement and judgment costs “police brutality
bonds”, because they quite literally allow banks and wealthy investors to profit from police
violence. This is a transfer of wealth from communities—especially over-policed communities of
color—to Wall Street and wealthy investors. The companies profiting from police brutality bonds
include well known institutions like Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, as well as
smaller regional banks and other firms.

While municipalities across the country spend up to 50% of their general funds on policing,
the use of police brutality bonds to pay out settlements and judgments only increases the cost
burden on taxpayers – all while turning a profit for banks and investors. The use of these bonds
can nearly double the costs of the original settlement.

This report focuses on just one aspect of the cost and profits of policing—the use of borrowing
to pay for police-related settlements and judgments. Of course, addressing police brutality is
not just a budgeting issue, it is a moral one. What this report serves to do is uncover the lengths
that municipalities have gone to hide both how the costs of police violence and who profits
from it. The system of policing exists to protect capital. A society built on white supremacy and
racial capitalism will always target Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. There is no economic
solution that can prevent this. As we work to dismantle and disband the system of policing,
we must hold the government, banks, and investors accountable for the financial, physical, and
emotional costs to our communities.

In our research, we found that cities and counties across the United States issue bonds to
pay for police brutality settlements and judgments. The cities range from giant metropolises
such as Los Angeles to smaller cities like Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Our report includes details
on police brutality bonds in twelve cities and counties, including five in-depth case studies:
Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Lake County, Indiana. Police violence should
never be a source of profit for banks or investors, or a reason we do not have the resources
we need to invest in the infrastructure and services that make our communities safer and more
livable. We need to dismantle this system of policing and build a truly just system that prioritizes
the needs and well-being of all people.”


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