NYPD Misconduct Lawsuits Have Already Cost NYC Taxpayers $40 Million This Year

JULY 31, 2019

NYPD officers arrest a man at a <a href="http://gothamist.com/2016/07/08/nyc_police_shooting_protest.php#photo-1">protest against police brutality</a> SCOTT HEINS / GOTHAMIST
NYPD officers arrest a man at a protest against police brutality SCOTT HEINS / GOTHAMIST

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

Advertisements

Police officer in ‘I can’t breathe’ death won’t be charged

 

1 of 11
Gwen Carr, mother of chokehold victim Eric Garner, left, speaks outside the U.S. Attorney’s office, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, as Garner’s widow Esaw Snipes listens at right, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Federal prosecutors won’t bring civil rights charges against New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, in the 2014 chokehold death of Garner, a decision made by Attorney General William Barr and announced one day before the five-year anniversary of his death, officials said. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) — After years of silence, federal prosecutors said Tuesday that they won’t bring criminal charges against a white New York City police officer in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man whose dying words — “I can’t breathe” — became a national rallying cry against police brutality.

The decision to end a yearslong civil rights investigation without charges was made by Attorney General William Barr and was announced the day before the five-year anniversary of the deadly Staten Island encounter, just as the statute of limitations was set to expire.

Civil rights prosecutors in Washington had favored filing criminal charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, but ultimately Barr sided with other federal prosecutors based in Brooklyn who said evidence, including a bystander’s widely viewed cellphone video, wasn’t sufficient to make a case, a Justice Department official told The Associated Press.

Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, said at a news conference that while Garner’s death was tragic, there was insufficient evidence to prove that Pantaleo or any other officers involved in the confrontation on a Staten Island sidewalk had willfully violated his civil rights.

“Even if we could prove that Officer Pantaleo’s hold of Mr. Garner constituted unreasonable force, we would still have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Pantaleo acted willfully in violation of the law,” Donoghue said.

Garner’s family was incensed by the decision, the latest from a Justice Department under President Donald Trump that has scaled-back use of consent decrees aimed at improving local police departments found to have violated civil rights.

“This should have been taken care of years ago,” said Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, a vocal police reform advocate since her son’s death. “This should have been taken care of under the Obama administration. Then we would have had a fairer playing ground.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton renewed his calls for the New York Police Department to fire the 34-year-old Pantaleo, who’s been on desk duty since Garner’s death and is awaiting the results of a disciplinary hearing that could lead to his firing. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said it expects a decision by Aug. 31.

“Five years ago, Eric Garner was choked to death,” Sharpton said. “Today, the federal government choked Lady Justice, and that is why we were outraged.”

Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said the officer “is gratified that the Justice Department took the time to carefully review the actual evidence in this case rather than the lies and inaccuracies which followed this case from its inception.”

Pantaleo’s union president, Pat Lynch, said: “scapegoating a good and honorable officer, who was doing his job in the manner he was taught, will not heal the wounds this case has caused for our entire city.”

Garner’s death — after he refused to be handcuffed for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes — came at a time of a growing public outcry over police killings of unarmed black men that gave impetus to the national Black Lives Matter movement. Just weeks later, protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

When a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on state charges in December 2014, demonstrations flared in New York and several other cities.

Amid those demonstrations, a man angry about the Garner and Brown cases ambushed and fatally shot two New York City police officers as they sat in their cruiser, further shocking the city and leading to the creation of the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement.

Prosecutors in Brooklyn repeatedly watched video of the confrontation between Garner and police, Donoghue said, but weren’t convinced Pantaleo willfully violated the law in using a chokehold, which is banned under police department policy.

Pantaleo initially tried to use two approved restraint tactics on Garner, much larger at 6-foot-2 and about 400 pounds, but ended up wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck “in what was, in effect, a chokehold” for about seven seconds as they struggled against a glass storefront window and fell to the sidewalk, Donoghue said.

“Significantly, Officer Pantaleo was not engaged in a chokehold on Mr. Garner when he said he could not breathe, and neither Officer Pantaleo nor any other officer applied a chokehold to Mr. Garner after he first said he could not breathe,” Donoghue said.

Garner could be heard on bystander video crying out “I can’t breathe” at least 11 times before he fell unconscious. The medical examiner’s office said a chokehold contributed to Garner’s death.

The federal probe resulted in two sets of recommendations.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn recommended no charges, while civil rights prosecutors in Washington recommended charging the officer. Barr, who watched the video himself and got several briefings, made the ultimate decision, a senior Justice Department official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations and investigative matters.

Donoghue announced the decision not to charge Pantaleo after meeting with Garner’s family, but the news was reported in the media beforehand, angering advocates.

At the news conference, Donoghue said he expressed his and Barr’s condolences. He said Garner’s death was a tragedy and that “for anyone to die under circumstances like these is a tremendous loss.” He also apologized for the length of the investigation, calling the delay “entirely inappropriate and unacceptable.”

In the years since Garner’s death, the NYPD has made a series of sweeping changes on how it relates to the communities it serves, ditching a policy of putting rookie officers in higher-crime precincts in favor of a neighborhood policing model that revolves around community officers tasked with getting to know New Yorkers.

De Blasio, who is touting his leadership on police-community relations on the presidential campaign trail, said the city is not the same as it was five years ago.

People pass the sidewalk area where Eric Garner was apprehended by the police in the Staten Island borough of New York, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“Reforms over the last five years have improved relations between our police and our communities,” de Blasio said in a statement, adding that crime was at record lows and 150,000 fewer people were arrested last year than the year before he took office.

But some activists, including Garner’s family and relatives of others killed by police, have argued the changes aren’t enough.

De Blasio also said that it was a mistake for the city to wait for federal prosecutors to finish investigating Garner’s death before the police department began disciplinary proceedings. But there is no rule requiring the NYPD to do so.

Police reform advocates said the decision not to charge Pantaleo was upsetting but to be expected.

Joo Hyun-Kang, the director of Communities United for Police Reform, said it was “outrageous but not shocking.” Hawk Newsome, the head of the New York area Black Lives Matter chapter said, “It’s America, man.”

“As a black man in America I have no expectation that we will receive justice in court without radical change in this country,” Newsome said.

___

Balsamo and Long reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Karen Matthews and Ali Swenson in New York contributed to this report.

 

“Police officer in ‘I can’t breathe’ death won’t be charged”, https://www.apnews.com/3c72405c9f874844a84b0ca658402078

‘I Can’t Breathe’: 5 Years After Eric Garner’s Death, an Officer Faces Trial

Disciplinary proceedings against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is accused of using a chokehold to subdue Mr. Garner, could lead to his firing.

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, at a protest in 2015 outside the Manhattan office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.CreditMark Kauzlarich/The New York Times
Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, at a protest in 2015 outside the Manhattan office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.CreditCreditMark Kauzlarich/The New York Times

By Ashley Southall

The last words Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, uttered on a New York City sidewalk in 2014 instantly became a national rallying cry against police brutality. “I can’t breathe,’’ Mr. Garner pleaded 11 times after a police officer in plain clothes placed his arm across his neck and pulled him to the ground while other officers handcuffed him.

The encounter was captured on a video that ricocheted around the world, set off protests and prompted calls for the officers to be fired and criminally charged.

Mr. Garner’s death was part of a succession of police killings across the country that became part of a wrenching conversation about how officers treat people in predominantly poor and minority communities.

Now, the officer who wrapped his arm around Mr. Garner’s neck, Daniel Pantaleo, 33, faces a public trial that could lead to his firing. Officer Pantaleo has denied wrongdoing and his lawyer argues that he did not apply a chokehold.

The trial, scheduled to start Monday at Police Department headquarters, has been long-awaited by the Garner family, whose campaign to hold the police accountable for what they say is an unjustified use of force took on greater significance after Mr. Garner’s daughter, Erica Garner, died in 2017.

The city paid $5.9 million to settle a lawsuit with the family after a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges.

But Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has fought and delayed the family’s efforts to have all the police officers involved in the encounter punished.

“It was at least a dozen more who just did nothing, or either they pounced on him, they choked him, they filed false reports,” Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said in an interview. “It’s about all of those officers who committed an injustice that day and they all need to stand accountable.”

Officer Pantaleo faces charges of reckless use of a chokehold and intentional restriction of breathing. His lawyer says that Officer Pantaleo did not use a chokehold, but a different technique that is taught to officers in training and is known as a seatbelt.

So the trial will have to settle two questions at the heart of the case: Was the maneuver Officer Pantaleo used a chokehold? And, if so, was the officer justified in using it to subdue an unarmed man during a low-level arrest?

On Thursday, the Police Department judge overseeing the trial said that prosecutors must prove that Officer Pantaleo’s actions went beyond a violation of departmental rules and constituted a crime — an unusually high bar.

Video of the fatal encounter was recorded by Ramsey Orta, a friend of Mr. Garner’s who is expected to testify at Officer Pantaleo’s trial. It captured Mr. Garner telling officers in street clothes to leave him alone after they approached him outside a beauty supply store on July 17, 2014, not far from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

Mr. Garner had repeated encounters with the police and believed that he was being harassed.

“This stops today,” he told the officers before they moved to arrest him over accusations that he was selling untaxed cigarettes. As one officer tried to grab Mr. Garner’s hand, he slipped free. Then Officer Pantaleo slid one arm around Mr. Garner’s neck and another under his left arm and dragged him to the ground. On the pavement, he begged for air.

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and said he died from a chokehold and the compression of his chest from lying prone. The findings are a crucial issue in the trial and Officer Pantaleo’s defense lawyer plans to dispute them.

Stuart London, the police union lawyer representing Officer Pantaleo, said the technique his client used was the seatbelt maneuver taught in the Police Academy, not a chokehold. He plans to argue that Mr. Garner, who was overweight and severely asthmatic, died because of poor health.

“Those who have been able to not come to a rushed judgment, but have looked at the video in explicit detail, see Pantaleo’s intent and objective was to take him down pursuant to how he was taught by NYPD, control him when they got on the ground, and then have him cuffed,” Mr. London said in an interview. “There was never any intent for him to exert pressure on his neck and choke him out the way the case has been portrayed.”

Demonstrators protesting a decision by a grand jury not to bring criminal charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December 2014.CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times
Demonstrators protesting a decision by a grand jury not to bring criminal charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December 2014.CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent city agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct, is prosecuting the case against Officer Pantaleo and is seeking his termination.

But the ruling on Thursday by the judge, Rosemarie Maldonado, the deputy police commissioner in charge of trials, denied Mr. London’s motion to dismiss the case. But her ruling means that prosecutors need to prove that Officer Pantaleo’s actions rose to the crimes of assault and strangulation in order to avoid the state’s prohibition on bringing misconduct charges more than 18 months after occurrence.

Colleen Roache, a spokeswoman for the review board, said prosecutors understood their obligation when they served Officer Pantaleo with the charges last July.

But critics have said the review board’s failure to file charges sooner had made the prosecutors’ case significantly harder to prove.

The Police Department banned chokeholds in 1993 amid concern about a rising number of civilian deaths in police custody. In 2016, the department added an exception to its chokehold ban under certain circumstances, which critics said made it easier for officers to justify its use.

After Mr. Garner’s death, the Police Department spent $35 million to retrain officers not to use chokeholds, but they continue to use the maneuver and rarely face punishment.

The trial is expected to last two weeks, with testimony from about two dozen witnesses. Officer Pantaleo has not decided whether he will testify, Mr. London said.

When the trial ends, Deputy Commissioner Maldonado, will decide if Officer Pantaleo is guilty. If guilt is determined, she will recommend a penalty to Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, who will make the final decision.

Short of firing, any discipline of Officer Pantaleo, a 13-year veteran, may never become public because of a state law that shields police disciplinary records from public disclosure.

The delays and secrecy surrounding officer discipline are part of the reason that police reform advocates say the public has lost trust in the city’s process for assessing complaints against officers.

The de Blasio administration fought to keep prior abuse complaints against Officer Pantaleo secret, including one stemming from a car stop in which the occupants said he strip-searched them on the street.

The records were eventually leaked, but the administration won several court rulings broadening the scope of the secrecy law.

“It’s been de Blasio and his administration who’ve been blocking the whole time that I’ve been trying to get the officers fired,” Ms. Carr said.

Despite Eric Garner and ‘I Can’t Breathe,’ Chokeholds Still Used

Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner’s Death

The trial will revisit a painful chapter marked by months of protests with marchers chanting Mr. Garner’s final words.

Not long after a Staten Island grand jury in December 2014 decided not to charge Officer Pantaleo with a crime, two officers were ambushed and killed by a gunman while sitting in their patrol car.

To Mr. Garner’s family and their supporters, his death discredited a crime-fighting strategy that the police and mayors have cited repeatedly as helping to drive crime rates to their lowest level in recent history. The strategy relies on targeting lower-level offenses that the police believe create the environment for more violent crime.

But critics say it has resulted in racial profiling, targeting mostly black and Latino men in poorer neighborhoods.

The Police Department delayed disciplinary proceedings against Officer Pantaleo for years because of an ongoing federal investigation. But with prosecutors in the Department of Justice divided over whether to bring charges, police officials decided to allow the disciplinary process to move forward.

Officer Pantaleo and Sergeant Kizzy Adonis, who was the first supervisor to arrive on the scene where the police were confronting Mr. Garner, were stripped of their guns and placed on desk jobs. Sergeant Adonis, who has since been restored to full duty, has been administratively charged with failing to properly oversee officers, but a date for her disciplinary trial has not been set.

A state judge recently denied Officer Pantaleo’s motion to have the civilian review board removed from the case. He argued that the agency lacked jurisdiction because the person who filed the complaint was not involved or an eyewitness.

“It’s time for Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, the rest of the Garner family, and the people of the City of New York to have closure,” Fred Davie, the chairman of the civilian review board, said in a statement.

On the stretch of Bay Street where Mr. Garner died, the type of behavior that drew police attention five years ago persists. People peddle loose cigarettes and a sign affixed to a door outside an apartment building warns against selling heroin on a stoop.

“It’s a hustle block,” Christopher Sweat, a retired chef, said. “It’s a regular mood until the cops get called.”

Nearby, a plaque memorializes Mr. Garner’s death as a murder, adding, “May his soul rest in peace.” Passers-by on a recent afternoon were unanimous in their belief that Officer Pantaleo deserved to be fired.

“It was a blatant chokehold,” said Keenen Hill, 46, a maintenance man who lives in the neighborhood. “Stevie Wonder saw that.”

Laura Dimon and Ali Winston contributed reporting.

Ashley Southallm, “‘I Can’t Breathe’: 5 Years After Eric Garner’s Death, an Officer Faces Trial”, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/12/nyregion/eric-garner-death-daniel-pantaleo-chokehold.html

NYPD flouts requirement to disclose police misconduct info, vows to post data

By ROCCO PARASCANDOLA

NYPD flouts requirement to disclose police misconduct info, vows to post data
NYPD flouts data requirement, vows to post info on police misconduct (rafalkrakow/rafalkrakow)

The NYPD has ignored for more than two years a city law requiring it to reveal statistics about officer misconduct, the Daily News has learned.

Police admitted the omission and said the information would soon be on its website.

The department declined to say why the data had not been posted, but City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) said there is a simple explanation: the NYPD’s first instinct when it comes to information is to withhold it.

’I think the NYPD has learned that the more the council and the public know about the racial disparities in policing and the lack of police accountability within the NYPD the more heat the NYPD gets to change its policies and reform its practices,” Lancman said.

“So they’ve obviously decided that withholding information they’re legally required to produce is more important to them than abandoning racially disparate practices and disciplinary processes that let officers engage in misconduct with impunity.”

The Deployment Law, a local ordinance, took effect Oct. 1, 2016. It requires police to report annually the number and percentage of cops in each police command with misconduct markers on their records: at least two substantiated civilian complaints or the use of excessive force in the prior three years, a suspension in the prior five years, or an unsealed arrest back 10 years.

The data is considered useful in spotting trends; for instance if a police unit was linked to numerous brutality complaints. It does not name officers or provide specifics that could reveal a cop’s identity.

The law requires police to post the data on the day the ordinance went into effect, and thereafter every February. But as of last week, only the 2016 data had been posted and, as Lancman noted, the numbers aren’t broken down by category of misconduct as required.

“So even with the information they have posted,” Lancman said, “what they have produced is practically useless.’’

A candidate for Queens District Attorney, Lancman said he learned almost by chance about the missing information.

Having sued the NYPD for not fully complying with a law requiring police to disclose data about fare evasion enforcement, Lancman checked if police were adhering to other laws.

The City Council also requires the NYPD to release stop and frisk data, but when it did so in Feb. 2007 it was discovered that such data had not been posted since late 2003.

How the NYPD tracks officer misconduct and disciplines its own has been headline news over the past few years. In 2016, the department stopped releasing to the media summaries of internal disciplinary proceedings against officers, reversing 40 years of practice. It cited Section 50-a of the state’s civil rights law for its action.

Section 50-a specifies that personnel records of police, firefighters and correction officers should be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without an individual’s written consent except if mandated by a court order. In the event of a court order, the personnel records in question are sealed and sent to a judge, who evaluates their relevance and releases to a petitioner only those sections deemed relevant by a judge.

Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill have advocated for the law to be amended.

 

NYPD flouts requirement to disclose police misconduct info, vows to post data

NYPD flouts requirement to disclose police misconduct info, vows to post data
NYPD flouts data requirement, vows to post info on police misconduct (rafalkrakow/rafalkrakow)

The NYPD has ignored for more than two years a city law requiring it to reveal statistics about officer misconduct, the Daily News has learned.

Police admitted the omission and said the information would soon be on its website.

The department declined to say why the data had not been posted, but City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) said there is a simple explanation: the NYPD’s first instinct when it comes to information is to withhold it.

’I think the NYPD has learned that the more the council and the public know about the racial disparities in policing and the lack of police accountability within the NYPD the more heat the NYPD gets to change its policies and reform its practices,” Lancman said.

“So they’ve obviously decided that withholding information they’re legally required to produce is more important to them than abandoning racially disparate practices and disciplinary processes that let officers engage in misconduct with impunity.”

The Deployment Law, a local ordinance, took effect Oct. 1, 2016. It requires police to report annually the number and percentage of cops in each police command with misconduct markers on their records: at least two substantiated civilian complaints or the use of excessive force in the prior three years, a suspension in the prior five years, or an unsealed arrest back 10 years.

The data is considered useful in spotting trends; for instance if a police unit was linked to numerous brutality complaints. It does not name officers or provide specifics that could reveal a cop’s identity.

The law requires police to post the data on the day the ordinance went into effect, and thereafter every February. But as of last week, only the 2016 data had been posted and, as Lancman noted, the numbers aren’t broken down by category of misconduct as required.

“So even with the information they have posted,” Lancman said, “what they have produced is practically useless.’’

A candidate for Queens District Attorney, Lancman said he learned almost by chance about the missing information.

Having sued the NYPD for not fully complying with a law requiring police to disclose data about fare evasion enforcement, Lancman checked if police were adhering to other laws.

The City Council also requires the NYPD to release stop and frisk data, but when it did so in Feb. 2007 it was discovered that such data had not been posted since late 2003.

How the NYPD tracks officer misconduct and disciplines its own has been headline news over the past few years. In 2016, the department stopped releasing to the media summaries of internal disciplinary proceedings against officers, reversing 40 years of practice. It cited Section 50-a of the state’s civil rights law for its action.

Section 50-a specifies that personnel records of police, firefighters and correction officers should be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without an individual’s written consent except if mandated by a court order. In the event of a court order, the personnel records in question are sealed and sent to a judge, who evaluates their relevance and releases to a petitioner only those sections deemed relevant by a judge.

Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill have advocated for the law to be amended.

 

“NYPD flouts requirement to disclose police misconduct info, vows to post data”, https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-nypd-flouts-data-requirement-vows-to-post-info-on-police-misconduct-20190506-gxsuloasfzbi5hecatefp6sj2i-story.html

NYC spent $230M on NYPD settlements last year: report

NYC spent $230M on NYPD settlements last year: report
NY City Comptroller Scott Stringer (Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)

New York City taxpayers spent a whopping $230 million to pay off 6,472 lawsuits settled against the NYPD in the last fiscal year, according to an annual report released Monday by Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.

The amount reflects settlements made from July 2017 through June 2018, and marks a 32% decrease from the prior year, when the city paid out $335 million for lawsuits against the police department.

Roughly $108 million was related to allegations of police misconduct like false arrests and excessive force, more than doubling the $48 million paid out for such issues a decade ago.

The total number of police misconduct claims filed last year increased from 2017, despite the fact that the total number of settlements issued in cases against the department declined.

Stringer’s report noted that a handful of claims inflated the total cost of last year’s settlements — five wrongful conviction cases accounted for roughly 14%, or $33 million, of the NYPD payouts.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Jessica McRorie said the reduction in claims shows the department’s ability to fight frivolous cases and provide top-of-the-line training to its officers.

“These gains represent another example of how the NYPD is building greater trust and respect with the community to collaboratively solve problems, drive down crime, and enhance public safety,” McRorie said.

Critics say the numbers in the report are not indicative of a reformed police department.

“This is just another spin effort by the comptroller and the Law Department,” said civil rights lawyer Joel Berger. “The trend over the past 10 years tells you there’s a lot of dissatisfaction out there, and not everyone harmed by the police files a lawsuit. Plenty of people decide they don’t want to go through the hassle.”

Berger pointed out that 44% of the claims against the city resolved by settlements of judgement in 2018 were against the NYPD, and took issue with the police department and unions claiming that many of the cases against the NYPD were frivolous.

“The public should not be fooled by government and union officials who attempt to spin statistics in an effort to claim that police-community relations are improving,” said Berger. “They aren’t.”

 

CORRUPTION IN UNIFORM: THE DOWD CASE; Officer Flaunted Corruption, And His Superiors Ignored It

The article as it originally appeared.

VIEW PAGE IN TIMESMACHINE
July 7, 1994, Page 00001The New York Times Archives

Over a span of six years, the New York City Police Department received 16 complaints alleging that Police Officer Michael Dowd had been robbing drug dealers and dealing cocaine as part of a gang of corrupt officers in the 75th Precinct in the crime-ridden East New York section of Brooklyn.

That wasn’t all. The officer drove to work in a bright red Corvette and sometimes had a limousine pick him up at the station house for gambling trips to Atlantic City.

Yet in a clear example of what went wrong with the department’s handling of corruption cases, an investigative panel, the Mollen Commission, has concluded that senior officers repeatedly ignored allegations against Officer Dowd or blocked efforts to check them out in a deliberate policy to shield the department from scandal. Officer Dowd was eventually arrested by another department and is now facing sentencing on drug charges.

The senior officers’ behavior, the panel concluded, was influenced by the tone set at the top. The panel’s report, which will be released formally today, found that Benjamin Ward, who was the Police Commissioner when the first allegations were made against Officer Dowd in 1986, had been deeply shaken by a corruption scandal in another Brooklyn precinct at about the same time.

And it quoted Charles J. Hynes, who was then the state’s special prosecutor for police corruption, as saying that Mr. Ward was convinced that further revelations of police misconduct would cripple the department.

But whatever the motivation, the commission said, Mr. Ward and Daniel F. Sullivan, the chief of the Inspectional Services Bureau from 1986 to 1992, “by their action — or inaction — created an unmistakable policy to avoid corruption scandals.”

Mr. Ward said he could not comment on the report because he had not seen it. Chief Sullivan told the commission that his subordinates never informed him about Officer Dowd until 1992.

Because of the perceived policy, Mr. Dowd and his “crew” of crooked officers flaunted the illegal wheeling and dealing that brought some of them as much as $8,000 a week for not interfering with drug sales along with whatever cocaine they could steal as they broke down doors at drug dens and ripped off dealers.

And even though complaints about Officer Dowd had been submitted as early as 1986, his 1987 performance evaluation described him as an officer with “excellent street knowledge” who is “empathetic to the community.”

It concludes, “Good career potential.”

Officer Dowd, who is 32, was finally arrested in 1992, not by New York City Police investigators, but by officers from Suffolk County. They had intercepted telephone conversations between the officer and a small-time drug dealer. He is now in the Manhattan Correctional Center awaiting sentencing on drug charges. The revelations that grew out of Officer Dowd’s arrest led Mayor David N. Dinkins to announce the creation of the Mollen Commission on June 25, 1992.

The panel’s report concluded that for nearly a decade the Police Department had abandoned its responsibility to insure the honesty of its members.

Fearing that reports of corruption in their commands would damage their careers, senior officers looked the other way, the commission said. Information in internal investigations was deliberately fragmented, rather than woven together to form a pattern, and cases were closed well before all leads had been exhausted.

In the fall of 1992, a report issued by Police Commissioner Lee P. Brown blamed the department’s failure to intervene in the crimes of Mr. Dowd and his fellow rogue cops on a breakdown in procedures.

But the Mollen Commission said it concluded that the problem was “a willful effort” by commanders of the Internal Affairs Division, the principal anti-corruption unit, to impede the investigation. Internal Affairs, it said, treated allegations against Mr. Dowd as separate incidents and withheld critical information from another investigator.

“By doing so,” the commission said, “Internal Affairs commanders doomed any hope of a successful investigation of Dowd and other corrupt officers of the 75th Precinct.” Holdup Provides Example

One example of how police investigators failed to make the most of leads was the holdup on July 1, 1988, by three officers in the 75th Precinct of a grocery store that was serving as a front for drug dealing. Officer Walter Yurkiw and two others were charged with the crime after robbery investigators found the car they had used, with money and drugs visible inside, parked near the station house.

Three weeks after the robbery, the precinct commander, Deputy Inspector John Harkins, told Captain Thomas Callahan of the Internal Affairs Division that he had heard rumors that Mr. Dowd was also involved in the robbery, the commission said. A few days later, a precinct lieutenant told Internal Affairs that Mr. Dowd had reportedly been seen at a bar with Officer Yurkiw and the others shortly before the robbery.

About two weeks later, two drug dealers told an Internal Affairs officer that their drug organization was paying Mr. Dowd $3,000 to $4,000 a week, plus an ounce of cocaine, for protection.

All this came to nothing. Instead, the robbery investigation remained focused on the three officers.

A few months later, Officer Yurkiw’s girlfriend, who told the police she used cocaine, got in touch with Internal Affairs, saying that Officer Yurkiw had threatened to kill her unless she provided an alibi for him in the grocery store robbery. She also told Internal Affairs about Mr. Dowd and others at the precinct.

An Internal Affairs officer reported that the woman’s “credibility and allegiances were suspect.” Yet, the Commission said, her testimony was nevertheless used.

Despite “incontrovertible indications of serious corruption,” the commission said, Internal Affairs never initiated a single investigation of Officer Dowd and, until the Long Island police intervened, the allegations against him “inevitably died a natural death.”

July 7, 1994, NYTimes, “CORRUPTION IN UNIFORM: THE DOWD CASE; Officer Flaunted Corruption, And His Superiors Ignored It”, https://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/07/nyregion/corruption-uniform-dowd-case-officer-flaunted-corruption-his-superiors-ignored.html

Video Showing NYPD Violently Arresting Delivery Worker Contradicts Police Account

nypdpar031919.jpeg
A still of the surveillance footage showing three police officers on top of Christopher Parham (Brooklyn Defender Services)

In September of last year, 19-year-old delivery worker Christopher Parham was inside a Williamsburg grocery store picking up ingredients for his boss when he was approached by a plainclothes police officer. The officer, Lieutenant Henry Daverin, claimed he’d seen the teenager driving recklessly and without a helmet on an illegal scooter. During the confrontation, Daverin and Officer Tyler Howe would later state, Parham pushed an officer’s hand, “violently resisted” arrest, and sparked a public disturbance that “caused a crowd to gather.” He was taken to the police precinct, where he allegedly lied about his identity.

On Monday, the Brooklyn Defender Services released surveillance footage of the incident that appears to contradict several aspects of the NYPD’s narrative. While the arrest report states that cops did not use force against Parham, the video shows three officers tackling the delivery worker to the ground. And contrary to their statement that a “a crowd of about 30 persons gathered” around the suspect — thereby triggering a disorderly conduct charge again Parham — the footage shows just a handful of people on the corner at the time of the arrest.

Still, the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez plans to prosecute the case next month, bringing eight separate charges against the now 20-year-old Parham. The slate of allegations includes four misdemeanors, and carries the possibility of one year in prison. He also faces three charges related to his employer’s delivery scooter: unauthorized use of a vehicle, motorcycle helmet violation, and reckless driving.

According to Maryanne Kaishian, a staff attorney at the Brooklyn Defender Services, the video proves that the NYPD’s description of events cannot be trusted.

“The police lied about everything that happened,” she told Gothamist. “From the very beginning, when they said he was driving recklessly, to the very end, when they alleged that they never used force.”

She says her client, who has no arrest record, was essentially jumped by the officers, tased without warning and beaten so badly that he was dazed for hours afterwards. According to the criminal complaint against Parham, when he was asked his name and date of birth at the precinct, he identified himself as “Christopher Perez,” and said he couldn’t remember his birthday — a consequence of the severe concussion he was later diagnosed with, according to his attorneys. As a result of the identification, he was charged with a misdemeanor “false personation.”

The surveillance footage also contradicts the NYPD’s justification for the police stop. In the arrest report, officers claimed they were at the intersection of Flushing Avenue and Humboldt Street when they “observed persons in a crosswalk move out of way to avoid being struck” by Parham. But video shows the delivery worker entering the crosswalk and parking his scooter without any pedestrian reaction.

Discovery materials obtained by Parham’s attorneys, meanwhile, suggest that the cops initially believed the scooter had been stolen, and were only persuaded otherwise after speaking with the owner of La Nortena 2, the nearby Mexican restaurant where Parham was employed (he’s currently a student).

Scott Hechinger

@ScottHech

Client was 19 y/o now 20. Working at La Nortena Restaurant as a delivery driver using the restaurant’s motorized scooter. His boss sent him to the grocery store to pick up shrimp, onions & avocados. Here he is parking the scooter & walking inside. Minutes before assault.

Embedded video

Scott Hechinger

@ScottHech

Seconds after he walks into grocery store, he’s followed in by a plain clothed officer. Wearing a “Don’t tread on me” shirt. Outside, a group of officers gather. pic.twitter.com/X3jsyCWEFI

Embedded video

227 people are talking about this

“They see a young person without a helmet driving a scooter and it’s grounds for them to initiate a conversation and rack up an arrest,” Kaishian told Gothamist. “It’s low-hanging fruit to them.”

As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s crackdown on e-bikes has continued to target delivery workers rather than the businesses that rely on the workers and their vehicles, the mayor has faced growing criticism for an enforcement framework seen by many as hypocritical. While the e-bikes traditionally used by delivery workers remain prohibited under the motorized scooter law, Citi Bike has expanded its fleet of pedal-assist e-bikes, and local officials have recently taken meetings with representatives of venture-capital-backed e-scooter companies like Bird and Lime.

Meanwhile, the moped-like vehicle used by Parham and many other delivery workers presents its own grey area: some certified models of “limited use motorcycles” can be registered with the DMV, but many others cannot, and it’s often unknown to workers whether their employers have received the proper registration. The technical differences in certification, along with the apparent confusion over the administrative code and de Blasio’s directives, has allowed cops to take a kitchen sink approach to applying the scooter law against delivery workers, according to some observers.

“They get ticketed for things such as riding an unregistered vehicle, not having vehicle insurance, or not having a driver’s license,” said Do Lee, a member of the #DeliverJusticeCoalition who wrote his PhD thesis in environmental psychology on delivery cyclists at the CUNY Graduate Center. “Many immigrant delivery workers have told us stories where the police charged or ticketed them for things that never happened.”

It is also relevant, says Kaishian, that Lieutenant Daverin, who appears to be wearing a “Don’t Tread On Me” t-shirt in the video, has a history of alleged brutality. According to a new police misconduct tracker released by the Legal Aid Society, he has been named in at least ten previous lawsuits, resulting in taxpayer-funded settlements of at least $77,500. In one federal case — which the city settled for $30,000 — Daverin allegedly oversaw the discriminatory arrest of a motorist, who was later falsely charged with resisting arrest.

“This kind of abuse happens all the time, we just happen to have footage in this case,” said Kaishian. “The word of a police officer is given more credence in our justice system, and so they don’t bother [telling the truth]. These officers were fully confident that they would never be held accountable.”

Sergeant Jessica McRorie, a spokesperson for the NYPD, told Gothamist that “the matter was immediately investigated, and it was determined no misconduct was committed” on the part of the officers. She did not respond to follow up questions about inconsistencies in the police report.

A spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA’s office said they were “looking into this incident.”

 

“Video Showing NYPD Violently Arresting Delivery Worker Contradicts Police Account”, http://gothamist.com/2019/03/19/surveillance_video_appears_to_under.php

Police Sergeant Fined For Telling City Employee: ‘I’m NYPD. I Shouldn’t Have To Follow Protocols’

 

nypd032219.jpeg
(Francis Dean/Shutterstock)

An NYPD sergeant with a for-hire vehicle side business and a history of alleged misconduct has been fined by the city for attempting to use his badge to curry favor with the city’s taxi regulator.

According to the Conflicts of Interest Board, Sergeant Howard Roth abused his city position and city resources while attempting to renew his for-hire vehicle license from a Taxi & Limousine Commission supervisor in 2017. In a settlement announced this week, Roth admitted to telling the supervisor, “I’m NYPD. I should not have to follow protocols,” after he was informed that he’d have to renew his license online.

When that didn’t work, Roth apparently informed the employee they “both work for the city and you should take care of this,” before fuming that he gets “no respect” from the TLC.

Roth had previously received the police department’s permission to operate the for-hire service on the condition he not use his police authority to “obtain any advantage for himself or his company, that he must not identify himself as a City employee, except in response to a direct inquiry, and that he must not use City resources, including his badge, in connection with his work for his company.”

As a result of violating that agreement, Roth was hit with a $6,000 fine by the Conflicts of Interest Board.

Asked whether the sergeant would face any additional consequences from the NYPD, a police spokesperson told Gothamist, “Internal Affairs investigated the incident and found that there was no cause for discipline.”

The sergeant, who has been on the force since 2010 and received a salary last year of $90,685, also has a history of alleged misconduct. According to a new database that tracks complaints against police officers, Roth has been named in at least six lawsuits, which have cost taxpayers $219,000.

Roth could not be reached for comment.

 

“Police Sergeant Fined For Telling City Employee: ‘I’m NYPD. I Shouldn’t Have To Follow Protocols'”, http://gothamist.com/2019/03/22/police_sergeant_fined_for_telling_r.php

Sexual misconduct complaints flood police watchdog

The police Civilian Complaint Review Board fielded 83 complaints of sexual misconduct by cops since it began prosecuting such allegations in February 2018, the board’s chairman said Tuesday.

“More than one year later, the agency has received 83 complaints containing 126 allegations of sexual harassment, sexual or romantic propositions, sexual humiliation and sexually motivated strip searches,” CCRB chairman Frederick Davie testified at a City Council hearing.

Among the allegations investigated, 40 percent are pending, 10 percent were unsubstantiated, 6 percent were substantiated and 4 percent were unfounded.

The CCRB, an independent city agency that probes allegations of police abuse, previously referred sexual misconduct complaints to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

Davie said his agency plans to eventually handle sexual assault cases as well after investigators complete the necessary training.

“Can we move expeditiously on this? I don’t want sexual assaults lingering out there,” said Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Queens), who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

“We share your desire to move as fast as possible, but we don’t want our haste to damage a case against an officer,” responded Davie.

Since February 2018, CCRB has referred 54 sexual abuse cases to NYPD Internal Affairs and another 42 to district attorney offices.

Davie said the CCRB, which has a $17.9 million budget, is seeking funding to “develop a victim advocacy and support program.”

Davie also said 4,745 complaints were filed against cops last year, compared to 4,487 in 2017.

He attributed the increase to the city’s Right to Know Act that took effect in October requiring that cops hand over a business card to people they question.

Davie said 137 complaints came in about cops who failed to do that.

 

Rich Calder, March 19, 2019, “Sexual misconduct complaints flood police watchdog”, https://nypost.com/2019/03/19/sexual-misconduct-complaints-flood-police-watchdog/