Later On

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When there is no accountability: New York City Paid an NBA Star Millions After an NYPD Officer Broke His Leg. The Officer Paid Little Price.

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Bad police act as they do because they know they have impunity: they know that it is extremely unlikely that they will pay any price for misconduct. Mike Hayes reports in ProPublica:

Five years ago, NBA guard Thabo Sefolosha was standing outside a nightclub when he was tackled by five New York Police Department officers, one of whom broke his leg with a baton.

Sefolosha sued, and the city paid its largest settlement for alleged police brutality in years, $4.5 million. After all, Sefolosha had to have surgery and couldn’t play basketball for a year. And a jury had acquitted Sefolosha of the charges against him for allegedly resisting arrest. The whole incident had been caught on tape.

But the payout — which didn’t cost the officers a dime — is where any accountability ended. The city had insisted during the case that the officers were blameless, and they ended up facing no significant punishment.

It’s left Sefolosha frustrated. “To get a settlement was a small victory. But big picture, it’s a small drop,” Sefolosha told ProPublica from his home in Vevey, Switzerland. “When are people going to be held accountable? You have to have repercussions. They’re going to do it over and over again.”

New York City has paid more than $1 billion over the past five years to settle lawsuits against the NYPD, according to data released by the city. ProPublica examined dozens of the biggest payouts in cases where civilians had also filed complaints with the city agency that reviews alleged police abuse. Again and again, the officers faced minimal or no discipline.

In one case, the city paid out $125,000 when officers allegedly fractured someone’s cheekbone with a flashlight. The officers were not disciplined. In another case, officers allegedly bashed in a man’s car window with a baton, then broke his ankle dragging him from the vehicle and charged him with resisting arrest. The charges were dropped and the city paid $460,000 to settle. The officers again faced no discipline.

In the 45 cases we examined, the harshest penalty any officer received was a loss of 15 vacation days — for punching a teenager and knocking him unconscious in an incident caught on tape that went viral. The city settled that case for $200,000.

The city has ended up paying out settlements for some officers’ alleged misconduct again and again. Over the past seven years, at least 800 officers have been named as defendants in five or more suits settled by the city. About 50 have been named in at least a dozen settlements.

The city has paid out more than $600,000 in settlements for one officer, nicknamed Bullethead, who has been sued dozens of times. The money in all these cases comes not from the officers or the NYPD itself, but from the city taxpayers.

report a few years ago by the New York City Bar put the issue succinctly: The city’s civil claim system is “failing in one of its principal purposes, to shape the actions of those officials on whose behalf damages are paid.”

While the Office of the New York City Comptroller — which cuts the settlement checks — tracks details of cases, the NYPD only recently agreed after a court order to incorporate some of the information into its monitoring of officers’ conduct.

Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city has moved to limit payouts on what the mayor described early in his administration as “frivolous lawsuits” against the NYPD. While the city has kept settling cases at roughly the same pace it has for years, it has become more aggressive in its defense of the NYPD. In a few cases reviewed by ProPublica, the city has defended officers who seem to have lied or engaged in what was clearly misconduct.

Joe Berger, a New York City civil rights attorney who previously worked at the Law Department, told ProPublica that the Law Department “will say anything, no matter how ridiculous, to defend officers.”

Berger, who brought a recent case against the city in which he said an officer lied to arrest his client, wrote in a law review article last year that police misconduct victims are “mistreated twice these days, first by the misconduct itself and then by city attorneys who withhold or acquiesce in the destruction of vital discovery and abuse legitimate plaintiffs with unethical tactics.”

De Blasio’s office did not respond to multiple requests to comment for this story.

A spokesperson for the Law Department, which handles suits, told ProPublica that each case has a “unique fact pattern and is evaluated on its individual merits.” The spokesperson emphasized that settlements are “not an admission of wrongdoing on the part of the city or its police officers.”

The NYPD said in a statement that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2021 at 3:14 pm

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