The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Why do police departments settle misconduct cases? Ask The Post.

The Post collected data on nearly 40,000 payments at 25 of the nation’s largest police and sheriff’s departments within the past decade. (Video: Joy Yi, Jackie Lay/The Washington Post)

Since 2015, The Washington Post has published investigations anchored in data that examine efforts to hold law enforcement accountable.

We began this work with a database showing that the government’s official count of people killed by police was, and still is, incomplete. We went further by showing how it’s virtually impossible for police departments to fire an officer for misconduct and then examined how police fail to solve homicides in communities of color.

The Unaccountable series takes stock of policing in America amid the continued push for reform. In 2021, The Post examined how police resist citizen oversight panels, how sheriffs have been given expanded powers to detain illegal immigrants and why there has been an endless cycle of attempted reform.

This year, we plan to bring you more stories — starting with our look into the thousands of police officers repeatedly named in nearly $1.5 billion in payments to settle allegations of misconduct. What questions do you have about police departments across the United States and the continued calls for police reform? Four Post journalists who have been reporting on this topic answered your questions on Wednesday.

Read the Q&A below.

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Teddy Amenabar, an editor on The Post’s audience team, produced this Q&A.