New York City paid $121M last year to settle police misconduct cases

Legal Aid Society attorney Jennvine Wong said the spike, up from about $85 million in 2021, could be linked to lawsuits after Black Lives Matter protests. Also, the man wrongly convicted of killing Malcolm X was paid.

New York City paid $121 million to settle police misconduct cases in 2022, a significant increase from the nearly $85 million spent in 2021 and the highest level since 2018.

The New York Police Department made six settlements last year totaling more than $10 million. In 2020 and 2021, only one settlement reached that amount, The New York Times reported.

Legal Aid Society staff attorney Jennvine Wong, who works with its Cop Accountability Project, said the settlement spike could be partially linked to lawsuits following Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020.

NYPD officers make space as they arrest a New York City demonstrator last month as people protest the Jan. 10 death of Memphis police abuse victim Tyre Nichols. New York City paid $121 million to settle its own police misconduct cases in 2022, a significant increase from the nearly $85 million spent in 2021 and the highest level since 2018. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, the city’s watchdog agency for police misconduct, recommended last year that 145 municipal police officers face reprimand for wrongdoing during protests following George Floyd’s death by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

The oversight panel determined that 267 allegations of misbehavior against the officers were supported by evidence, recommending the highest level of discipline for roughly 60% of them.

“They make the payouts, they settled the lawsuits, but then they don’t pursue discipline,” Wong said, according to The Times.

Patrick J. Lynch, Police Benevolent Association president, claimed that the annual settlement amounts are “not a fair or accurate measure” of how police officers performed in a given year. He pointed out that the city frequently settles cases in which police officers have done nothing wrong and says some of the largest payouts come from decades-old cases that don’t involve officers still in service.

An examination of municipal data released on Tuesday by the Legal Aid Society, the state’s largest supplier of criminal and civil services for destitute clients, revealed misconduct payouts only contained some police settlements in 2022. According to the Office of the New York City Comptroller, the city spent almost $184 million overall.

Those monies include $13 million paid to Muhammad A. Aziz, whose 1965 conviction for the murder of Malcolm X was overturned in 2021 after he served two decades in prison. 

The city’s Law Department’s data shows that cases like Aziz’s, with a total value of approximately $73 million, accounted for roughly 60% of last year’s settlements.

Justice Committee representative Yul-san Liem, whose organization works with New York City families whose loved ones have been slain by its police personnel, described the systemic lack of police accountability for cops who kill and abuse people as a decades-old problem.

“All of those families have actively been campaigning and calling for the officers who killed their loved ones to be fired,” said Liem, according to The Times, “and that still hasn’t happened.”

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