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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Police behaving badly cost city a staggering $35 million

Police behaving badly cost city a staggering $35 million
The New York Daily News by KATHLEEN LUCADAMO - March 13, 2009

Controversial cop tactics - including excessive force and false arrests - are costing taxpayers a bundle. The city shelled out $35.2 million last year in settlements over charges of improper police action, up 40% over the previous year, a report out Thursday from city Controller William Thompson shows. And that figure isn't likely to fall anytime soon: The number of people who planned to sue the NYPD hit an all-time high last year. "These are remarkable increases. They raise serious questions as to whether the NYPD is out of control," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. The number of notices of claim filed against the NYPD - the first step in a lawsuit - has climbed 22% in the past 10 years, hitting a historic high of 6,274 last year, the report found. Lieberman blames aggressive stop-and-frisk practices for the rise, but a police source said many claims are for property cases, like a squad car damaging another vehicle. Still, the NYPD's payout increases outweighed those of other city agencies. The city paid $567.9 million in settlements and judgments last year, an increase of less than 2% from 2007, according to Thompson's report.

But total payouts for the NYPD soared 11% to $102.8 million during the same period. The NYPD and the city Law Department declined to comment on the boost in payouts and claims, saying they have not reviewed the controller's report. But most victims and their lawyers weren't satisfied with their sum. "I wanted to be compensated because I served time in prison, but I feel like more should have been done to correct the officers' behavior," said Jeffrey Cofield, who got $400,000 from the city last year after spending eight months in jail on false drug possession charges. "At the end of the day, the city paid for their mistake, not the officers," he said. Marshall Nuñez of Brooklyn won the largest police action settlement last year, collecting $1.25 million for a false rape arrest. DNA proved the learning-disabled man was innocent. "I only wish it was bigger," said his lawyer Michael Rubin. "I think there are a lot more innocent people in jail than we think and a lot more confessions that are not as willful as we think."

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