Fewer lawsuits filed against N.Y. police, official says

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 05, 2015 4:49 PM

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Legal claims against the New York City Police Department for misconduct, civil rights violations and injuries fell 11.6 percent from mid-2014 to mid-2015, reversing a decade-long trend that had seen more than a 70 percent rise, a city official reported on Thursday.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said the number of claims dropped from 9,634 in fiscal year 2014 to 8,519 in fiscal year 2015.

The city's 2016 budget includes $710 million to pay for civil settlements and judgments. The NYPD is sued more often than any other agency.

The NYPD generated controversy for years over its aggressive use of stop-and-frisk tactics under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Commissioner Raymond Kelly, with critics saying it amounted to a form of racial profiling.

A federal judge ruled the strategy unconstitutional in 2013. Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped the city's appeal and largely ended the practice after taking office in January 2014.

While Commissioner William Bratton has seen his own share of criticism for focusing on low-level crime, Stringer said he deserved credit for using real time claims data to respond more efficiently.

Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for de Blasio, said the administration had implemented several measures to drive down claim-related costs. One example, she said, was the police department's creation of a unit dedicated to assessing legal claims.

Stringer said the department could go even further by integrating claims data into its regular review of crime statistics. Commanders in precincts with higher numbers of claims could also examine whether certain units or officers were potentially problematic, Stringer said.

NYPD representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Tom Brown)