New York City taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $40 million in settlements paid out to victims of alleged police misconduct in the first half of this year—a spike of more than 50 percent since last year.
The newly released data, which the city is required to publish twice a year, shows that 716 civil misconduct suits were filed against 996 members of the NYPD since the start of 2019. While those figures are broadly consistent with previous intervals, an analysis by the Legal Aid Society found that the cost of settlements has ballooned this year: $38,307,944 was paid out in the first six months of this year, compared to roughly $24 million over the same time period in 2018.
The biggest settlement of 2019 thus far was awarded to the so-called “Bronx Rapist,” who was arrested by NYPD officers and spent eight years in prison before he was exonerated in 2014. Many of the other lawsuits were the result of more recent misconduct incidents, including alleged instances of excessive force, wrongful arrest and imprisonment, assault, and malicious prosecution.
The city has settled 72 percent of the lawsuits filed against the police department this year, a slight increase from 2018.
The data excludes cases filed prior to fiscal year 2015, which could partially account for the apparent growth in settlements. Unlike NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s annual claims report, the Law Department does not include notices of claim that are settled by the city prior to litigation. Factoring in those claims, the city paid out a whopping $230 million for NYPD misconduct last year, according to the Comptroller’s latest report.
Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at the Legal Aid Society, said the settlement figures suggested the NYPD isn’t doing enough about its own members’ misconduct. “These numbers will remain high unless the NYPD seriously revamps its disciplinary process so that officers who engage in this conduct receive more than just a slap on the wrist,” she said.
According to a report issued earlier this year from the Department of Investigation, the NYPD has rejected many of the reforms pushed by its own Inspector General’s Office, including recommendations relevant to use-of-force incidents.
A recent review of NYPD misconduct records showed that the department continues to employ officers who’ve been sued dozens of times, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer settlements.
“New Yorkers would be better served by police if the NYPD seriously focused on curbing rampant and systemic misconduct—which continues to cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year—instead of spearheading efforts to criminalize water splashing,” Luongo added.
A spokesperson for the NYPD did not respond to Gothamist’s inquiries.
JULY 31, 2019. Gothamist.com, “NYPD Misconduct Lawsuits Have Already Cost NYC Taxpayers $40 Million This Year”, https://gothamist.com/2019/07/31/police_misconduct_lawsuits_taxpayers.php