According to a February 2014 report by the NY Daily News, the number of civil lawsuits brought against members of the NYPD doubled over the past ten years, resulting in over $1 billion in settlement payments during that time period. With 9,570 suits filed, claims reached a record high in 2012. Moreover, 55 NYPD officers have been sued at least ten times over the past decade, and one officer has been sued 28 times since 2006. The lawsuits against the 55 officers cost New York City $6 million. There are currently 34,000 members of the NYPD.
According to the Daily News, many lawsuits involve allegations of false arrest. In some instances, criminal charges against a defendant are dropped, yet the person may have suffered injuries or lost a job or home as a result of the arrest. Such people will file a lawsuit to recover from any damages they may have suffered. For instance, Jemilah el-Shabazz was falsely arrested for cocaine possession in a Bronx drug raid that jailed 14 people but only resulted in one person being charged for a small amount of marijuana. el-Shabazz, who was nursing an infant at the time, spent one week in Rikers Island when a test on a powder she used for religious purposes came back negative for cocaine. The raid ended up costing the city $202,500 in settlements. el-Shabazz said, “That was the worst week of my life. They had everybody under siege and they didn’t find anything.”
Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, criticized the city for settling cases too quickly. He said that people often file lawsuits “knowing it could be an easy payday.” He also stated that while the “average citizen may find it unsettling, the more active an officer is the higher the likelihood of being involved in some type of litigation. It is neither indicative of wrongdoing nor stereotypical.”
However, UCLA Law School Professor Joanna Schwartz said that it is indicative of a “problem” when an officer has had ten or more suits filed against him or her. Schwartz pointed out that such suits “can often reveal problem officers and defects in police training.”
NYPD spokesperson Stephen Davis stated that former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly created a Civil Lawsuit Monitoring Program as well as a Risk Assessment Unit in September 2013 in response to the increased number of civil suits. Davis stated that the monitoring program analyzes the number of lawsuits filed against an officer, the nature of the lawsuit, and the officer’s involvement in the specific incident. The Risk Assessment Unit looks at various trends in lawsuits that might warrant further investigation. He said that current Commissioner Bill Bratton is looking into ways to improve the programs.
Website Resource:Detective is NYPD’s most-sued cop, with 28 lawsuits filed against him since 2006, NY Daily News, Barry Paddock , Rocco Parascandola , John Marzulli AND Dareh Gregorian, February 16, 2014