The New York City Police Department has seen an increasing number of lawsuits, leading to a record high in payments issued during 2011, according to a new report.
Lawsuits against the NYPD jumped 35% over the last year, with New York City paying $185 million in claims during 2011, according to a report (PDF) issued by the City Comptroller John C. Liu.
Overall, New York City lawsuit payouts topped $550 million during fiscal year 2011, which comes out to a cost of about $70 per resident to settle or otherwise resolve lawsuits that year.
The number of claims filed in 2012 was 8,882, a new record according to Liu, suggesting future costs may be even higher. In 2010, the city only paid $137.3 million in police department lawsuit settlements and judgments.
“The Comptroller’s Office is well aware that a claim represents only an allegation,” Liu’s report states. “Nonetheless, the NYPD should explore a unified method to track the individual officers named in claim suits and the payouts, including the nature of the payout (i.e., a settlement or a judgment) that are associated with those officers.”
Liu also recommended the department track trends by precinct, and create a task force to look for high areas of risk. He also recommended more training regarding police vehicle chases, which represented the fifth largest settlement in fiscal year 2011, which cost the city $6.2 million.
A number of recent incidents, including the city’s handling of the Occupy Wall Street movement, put police brutality claims in New York City on the nation’s radar.
In 2011, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) issued a report on problems associated with police officers’ use of Taser weapons in departments across the state. They found that most Taser gun use by New York police departments failed to meet the appropriate criteria for when officers should shock suspects, with 15% of the shootings being clearly inappropriate.
Inappropriate use of force defines any situation where police use force out of proportion or inappropriate to the situation at hand and the threat posed by another person. It can also occur when the police officer is negligent in the use of force. Some examples include brutality and excessive force; injuring or killing a person through the unjustified use of a firearm; and arresting and imprisoning someone without reasonable suspicion or probably cause.