New York City paid $428mn in NYPD civil rights settlements
Released documents show that New York City shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars to settle civil rights lawsuits involving the New York Police Department(NYPD).
The documents – released by the New York City Law Department – show more than 12,000 cases since 2009 where the city paid out $428 million in police-related settlements. The records were released after a Freedom of Information Act request was made by MuckRock, asking the department just how many civil rights lawsuits were filed against the city when the police department was listed as a defendant over a five-year period.
While the list will require further review since the case histories are not provided, the Gothamist has argued that not all the settlements seem to be the result of police misconduct. The largest payout of $11.5 million went to Google engineer Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, who was nearly killed in 2009 when a tree branch fell on him in Central Park. Another large settlement went to the family of Ronald Spear, who died after being beaten by Rikers Island guards – officials who work for the Department of Corrections, not the NYPD. Without those two cases, though, there are still several thousand cases in which the NYPD was listed as a defendant.
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Meanwhile, many of the lawsuits filed were found to have alleged false arrest, the New York Daily News discovered in an analysis of lawsuits filed against the city and the NYPD over a decade. Scores of cases involved injured people who had criminal charges against them thrown out, and people who lost or almost lost their jobs, kids, pets, or homes.
The list also doesn’t say how long cases have been pending
against the city. For example, the Central Park Five jogger case
took a decade to reach a settlement. The Central Park Five – five
black and Latino teenagers – were accused, charged, and
incarcerated for allegedly raping a jogger in the park. The five
had their convictions vacated in 2002 after the real rapist
confessed to the crime. They sued the city for wrongful
conviction, but the case was only recently settled in 2014 – for
At the announcement of their settlement, Raymond Santana told reporters what the five had experienced: “It’s been twenty-five years since we went through this great injustice. The labels, the forced imprisonment, the destruction of our family structures, the turning of the backs, the ridicule.”
In the first six months of this year, New York City has spent nearly $103 million on police misconduct and civil rights settlements, according to figures provided by the city comptroller’s office. For all of last year, the city paid out $96 million for such lawsuits, as Mayor Bloomberg routinely dismissed the relevance of civil suits against the NYPD – even as the number of claims over the past decade rose to a record high in 2012.
As part of a broader strategy to shrink claims costs across New York, city comptroller Scott Stringer said he is launching a program called ClaimStat – a “data-driven claims review that will identify patterns and practices across city agencies that lead to claims and work with agencies to find solutions that save taxpayers money.”