City Spent Nearly $1B to Settle NYPD Lawsuits

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An Associated Press report finds that the NYPD has spent nearly $964 million since 1999 to settle lawsuits, claiming its taxpayer-subsidized payouts "dwarf" those of other American cities. How does it all break down? Even better: Why are we paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle multiple suits against the same handful of cops? Let's find out!

Via the AP:

The $964 million in payouts covers everything from brutality cases to patrol-car wrecks to stationhouse accidents, and it includes settlements and trial awards. Some police officers have been sued again and again -- including one officer at least seven times on excessive force and brutality claims. Some law firms have made it their primary business to sue the city.

New York's statistics are admittedly hard to compare with other cities; the NYPD's 35,000 officers make it the largest police force in the nation and the city's population of eight million people is almost three times as large as Chicago's, which boasts the country's second-largest police force (which, compared to New York, staffs a paltry 13,000 officers). But the AP reports that over the past six fiscal years, Chicago PD paid out an average of $39.1 million a year compared to New York's whopping $96.4 million per year between 1999 and 2008. (And Chicago's number includes "a nearly $21 million payment in 2008 to a driver paralyzed when police slammed into his car while chasing someone else.")

Even America's second-largest city, Los Angeles -- whose population is still less than half of New York's and whose police force ranks third behind Chicago's and New York's, but shares jurisdiction with county and municipal law enforcement agencies -- fails to live up. LAPD only paid an average of $21.4 million per year for the past seven years.

So what's the breakdown for which suits get the most settlement cash tossed their way? The AP says the city's data "don't detail the nature of the police cases," but they broke out a calculator and found that in the last 10 years, the department has spent:

  • $103,000 for six suits against a single narcotics detective
  • $171,500 for four suits against a single plainclothes detective
  • $188,250 for seven suits within three years against a single Brooklyn precinct sergeant
  • $7.2 million -- the NYPD's largest payout for a fatal police shooting ever -- in the Sean Bell case
  • More than $23 million for lawsuits involving "police bullets or brutality"
  • More than $30 million for lawsuits involving car accidents
  • "Millions more" for lawsuits involving "unjustified arrests" and "wrongful convictions"

Meanwhile, Gothamist points out a few of the more comical claims the city has chosen to settle, including:

  • $250,000 over a subway arrest that resulted in a fractured cheekbone;
  • $300,000 to cops whose boss had jock itch; and
  • $9.9 million to a man wrongly framed by dirty cops and spent 18 years in prison

New York's Finest (tax dollars) at work!

[shernandez@villagevoice.com]


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