$964 million has been paid over the past decade to resolve claims against the New York Police Department, the Associated Press reports. Taxpayers foot the bill. City officials say the payments cost less than insurance would, and officers don’t usually bear personal responsibility. The payouts cover everything from brutality cases to patrol-car wrecks to stationhouse accidents; they include settlements and trial awards. Some officers have been sued repeatedly, including one officer at least seven times on excessive force and brutality claims. Some law firms make it their primary business to sue the city.
City lawyers call the payouts a cost of policing a metropolis of 8.3 million people. Officials work to minimize the costs tthrough officer training and discipline. The city has prevailed in thousands of cases, including some deadly shootings. “We’re not pushovers,” city attorney Fay Leoussis told AP. Critics say the city is paying for police mistakes without learning from them. In cases like the high-profile 50-bullet fatal shooting of Sean Bell, the city paid even when officers are acquitted of criminal charges and don’t admit wrongdoing. “Right now it’s open season against the city. Just file a lawsuit, and you’re going to get money,” said City Council member Peter Vallone, who has sponsored a bill he hopes will make it impossible to pay out dubious claims. “Everyone makes out – except the taxpayer.”