In the last decade, almost $1 billion has been paid out to resolve claims against the NYPD – the nation’s largest police department. Where does this money come from? From taxpayers, of course. New York officials say the payments cost less than insurance would, and normally the police officers do not have any personal responsibility for the claims.
The money, which is far more than any other police department in the country, has gone to cover police excessive force and brutality cases, police car wrecks, accidents in the police stations, settlements, and trial rewards. Some of the money is paid in police workers compensation claims by the police themselves for getting hurt on the job. Lawyers for the city say the payouts are simply the cost of policing a city of more than 8.3 million people. Officers regularly interact with millions of people each year, involving the mentally ill, criminal suspects, angry people, as well as litigious and opportunistic people. An estimated 30,000 lawsuits are filed against the NYPD each year, but despite the amount of money paid out – the city has prevailed in thousands of cases.
Critics of the claim money say the city is paying for mistakes police officers make without learning from them. For example, an unarmed man was killed on his wedding day during a 50-bullet police shooting. The fiancée and friends of the man wanted justice – and the legal system gave it to them in money – more than $7 million. The officers involved in this incident were acquitted of criminal charges and do not admit any wrongdoing – but the city still pays.
City Council member Peter Vallone says, “Right now it’s open season against the city. Just file a lawsuit, and you’re going to get money. Everyone makes out – except the taxpayer.” Vallone has sponsored a bill with the hopes that it will make dubious claims impossible to pay out.