NYPD Misconduct Lawsuits Decrease by Most in at Least 20 Years

  • Civil abuse cases drop by 13 percent in year ending in June
  • Department has been tracking how claims against officers start

Civil lawsuits accusing New York City police of misconduct declined 13 percent last year, the biggest decrease in at least 20 years, after officials began tracking officers attracting the most litigation, city Comptroller Scott Stringer said.

Abuse claims -- which can include excessive force, false arrest and illegal shootings -- fell to 5,007 in the 2015 fiscal year that ended June 30, down from 5,727 the year before, the comptroller’s office said Wednesday. The overall number of civil cases against the department also decreased.

City officials have been working to reduce the numbers after New York incurred a record $732 million in legal costs in the 2014 fiscal year, mostly from claims of police abuse, negligence and contract disputes.

Stringer attributed this year’s decline in lawsuits against the New York City Police Department to a program that flags repeated claims against officers and analyzes circumstances that give rise to them.

“The NYPD in particular is doing a great job of bringing down the overall number of claims,” Stringer said in a news release accompanying Wednesday’s report. He thanked Police Commissioner Bill Bratton for a “close partnership with the department as we provide them with real-time data to target problem areas.” 

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, who took office in January 2014, has had a fraught relationship with the city’s officers since July 2014 when Eric Garner, a Staten Island man, died after police used an apparent choke hold to subdue him while making an arrest; de Blasio said he had advised his own son to be careful in encounters with law enforcement.

The situation deteriorated when a grand jury returned no indictment against the officers, leading to citywide protests. Police staged a slow-down and refused to write tickets and summonses for at least a week after a Dec. 20 incident in which two officers were killed in a Brooklyn ambush. The city settled an ensuing legal case for $5.9 million.

In a gesture to demonstrate his support for the rank and file, the mayor has said many lawsuits have been been without merit, and he budgeted $3.2 million to add 30 attorneys and 10 support staff to more vigorously defend claims accusing police of excessive force. He’s also pushed for training officers to reduce hostile encounters.

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