Doreen Coleman, the mother of Randy Cox, holds a sign that says "Justice for Randy Cox," stands with her fist raised in the air. To her right is civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who's also holding his fist up. It's a sunny day outside.
Doreen Coleman, center, the mother of Randy Cox, stands next to civil rights attorney Ben Crump in front of New Haven City Hall on Sept. 15. Jaden Edison / CT Mirror

New Haven will pay Richard ​“Randy” Cox the largest municipal settlement in a police misconduct case in this country’s history with the help of surplus budget funds — and no new borrowing — after official approval from the Board of Alders for how to cover the uninsured portion of a $45 million agreement.

In June, the city committed to paying $45 million to Cox one year after city police officers’ mishandling of the then-36-year-old arrestee left him paralyzed. 

The city’s insurance is covering $30 million of that settlement, leaving the city responsible for paying $15 million, plus a self-insured retention of up to $1 million.

On Monday night, the Board of Alders unanimously approved the transfer of $16 million from the general fund toward Cox’s settlement.

According to Finance Committee Chair and Westville Alder Adam Marchand, ​“it was clear as of today” that the Fiscal Year 2022–2023 surplus is large enough to cover the city’s financial commitment to Cox in full. (In a media advisory released on Monday evening, city spokesperson Lenny Speiller wrote that the surplus for the fiscal year that ended on June 30 amounted to $22.3 million.)

As a result, alders voted not to pass an additional ordinance amendment on Monday’s agenda, which would have allowed the city to borrow money in order to pay the settlement.

That means that the city will cover the entirety of the $16 million uninsured portion of the $45 million settlement via a budget transfer of surplus funds, and not with the help of any new borrowing.

“It is vital that the city make good on its commitment,” Marchand told his colleagues during the meeting, urging them to vote in favor of the $16 million budget transfer. 

The vote marked a pivotal step in compensating Cox for an incident of police brutality on June 19, 2022, that ignited national outrage. New Haven police officers arrested Cox, transported him to the detention center in a seatbeltless van, braked so abruptly that Cox hurtled against the wall and injured his neck and spine, and dragged him out of the van and into a cell despite his pleas that he was injured.

During Internal Affairs (IA) interviews in the runup to the officers’ police commission disciplinary hearings, the four now-fired officers sought to justify their treatment of Cox by telling investigators they thought he was drunk, intentionally noncompliant, or otherwise faking his injuries after his arrest.

As a result, Cox has suffered the paralysis of most of his body and has required extensive and costly medical care. In the aftermath, he relied for a time on oxygen and a feeding tube, unable to speak. He spent months in the hospital and in rehab centers, where he needed 24-hour care that family members said the facilities could not always provide.

He and his family sued the city for $100 million.

In addition to the settlement, the city has responded to the Cox incident by mandating that officers ask arrestees if they need medical attention (with a requirement to follow up immediately if arrestees say they do) and is now only transporting arrestees in vehicles with seatbelts. All five officers involved with the incident were arrestedfour were fired, while the fifth retired before facing disciplinary action.

In a statement released at the time of the settlement’s announcement, attorneys Ben Crump, Lou Rubano, and R.J. Weber (representing the Cox family) wrote: ​“As the largest settlement in a police misconduct case in our nation’s history, this settlement sends a message to the country that we know we must be better than this.”

This story was first published Sept. 19, 2023 by the New Haven Independent.