By Jake Offenhartz in News
March 7, 2019
Each year, New York City taxpayers are on the hook for millions of dollars in settlements paid out to the victims of alleged police misconduct. While the number of lawsuits has trended down in recent years, the annual bill of NYPD-related suits and claims has ballooned — reaching a record-breaking $308.2 million in 2017 — thanks in part to big-ticket settlements for wrongful convictions and high-profile false arrest suits.
At the same time, the public window into the department's handling of misconduct cases has never been more obscured. As a result of the NYPD's controversial reinterpretation of section 50-a of the state Civil Rights Law in 2016, New York is now one of just two states to specifically classify police disciplinary records. A report released last month by a panel of experts, including two former US attorneys, determined that decision has contributed to "a fundamental and pervasive lack of transparency" within the department.
Hoping to address this glaring information gap, the Legal Aid Society has launched CAPstat, a searchable database of publicly available lawsuits filed against members of the NYPD. It includes a wealth of data — easily filtered by an officer's name, type of misconduct, precinct, or rank — culled from lawsuits filed in federal and state court, as well as the trove of internal disciplinary records published by BuzzFeed News last year. It's the first time such information on the city's police department has been publicly accessible in one place.
In response to CAPstat's launch on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the NYPD noted that "not all lawsuits filed for money have legal merit." Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association warned that the database would inspire "a campaign of harassment, intimidation or worse."
But other cities that have recently worked to lift the veil on police misconduct, like Chicago and Philadelphia, have seen no evidence of increased harassment, according to Julie Ciccolini, a project manager at the Legal Aid Society who oversaw the design of CAPstat. Rather, publicizing the information is believed to have contributed to rising public trust in the police department.
"We're trying to shed light on the extent of police misconduct that's happening and the extent that officers are not being held accountable for it," Ciccolini told Gothamist. "It's important for the public to see how large of a problem this is, so that they can start putting pressure on public officials to do something about it."
We combed the database for the police officers who have been named in the most lawsuits in recent decades — taking into account the full subset of federal lawsuits from 2015 until mid-2018, publicly available state lawsuits, the leaked internal misconduct records covering 2011 to 2015, and other known lawsuits against NYPD officers tallied by the Legal Aid Society. Find that list below, and search CAPstat for yourself here.
Gothamist attempted to contact each of the officers named in this story before publication. We will update if we receive any responses.
DETECTIVE ABDIEL R. ANDERSON Command: Bronx Narcotics Unit Known lawsuits: 44
Abdiel Anderson is a veteran police officer who's spent the last decade as a detective third grade in the Bronx's narcotics unit. He's racked up 44 lawsuits in that time, the most of any police officer in the city, according to the database. The department has settled in at least 19 of the federal lawsuits, resulting in taxpayer funded payouts totalling $524,000.
In reviewing his history of alleged misconduct, the Legal Aid Society found that more than thirty lawsuits have been filed against him for alleged use of excessive force. "We've been aware of him for years, but again, nothing is being done," said Ciccolini. "We don't know if he's being investigated internally, but we do know that he continues to arrest our clients."
SERGEANT DAVID A. GRIECO Command: 67th Precinct Known lawsuits: 32
Nicknamed "Bullethead" by the Daily News, Grieco's lengthy history of allegedly violating the civil rights of Brooklyn residents has come up in 32 known lawsuits, at a cost to taxpayers of $343,252. He has been accused of putting a minor in a chokehold, threatening to arrest an aspiring rapper if he didn't freestyle for him, and bursting into a home without a warrant and hauling six-year-old twins to a police precinct.
Meanwhile, Grieco has continued climb the NYPD's chain of command. After spending a dozen years patrolling Brooklyn's 75th Precinct—the most-sued precinct, per the database—he was promoted last year to sergeant, and now works the 67th precinct in East Flatbush. In addition to being the city's second most frequently sued cop, he's one of the NYPD's top overtime earners — in 2017, he pulled in $73,000 in overtime, bringing his total salary to $190,000.
DETECTIVE ANTHONY T. DISIMONE Command: Bronx Narcotics Unit Known lawsuits: 28
In more than two decades with the NYPD, Disimone has been affiliated with 28 known lawsuits, racking up a taxpayer bill of $400,000. The most expensive of his many allegedly brutal arrests came in 2012, when he and a handful of other Bronx narcotics officers raided an apartment on 169th Street. The officers were later accused of pulling a naked woman from her bed, tossing her to the ground, and pointing a gun at her boyfriend. After allegedly leaving them naked and handcuffed in the bedroom, the suit claims that police ransacked the home and stole $3,100 from the couple, before bringing them back to the precinct for a humiliating strip search. The couple were released without charges, and the city later settled their lawsuit for $90,000.
DETECTIVE JODI BROWN Command: Bronx Narcotics Unit Known Lawsuits: 27
Yet another member of the Bronx narcotics unit, Brown is a detective third grade named in 27 known lawsuits that have cost the city $993,500 in settlements. The bulk of that sum came from a notorious incident seven years ago, in which a gaggle of officers were caught on video beating 19-year-old Jatiek Reed with batons and kicking him as he lay on the ground. Brown was later named in a lawsuit as one of the officers "personally involved" in the beating, and the city ended up paying out $614,500.
DETECTIVE CARLOS MARCHENA Command: Bronx Narcotics Unit Known lawsuits: 27
Marchena splits the fourth-place spot with his fellow Bronx narcotics detective Jodi Brown, but has a slight leg up on total cost to the city, with a $997,502 in affiliated settlements. He's faced numerous complaints of excessive force, and was accused of inflicting "severe and permanent" psychological injury on one Bronx woman, who claims she was violently arrested and falsely accused of drug possession by Marchena. The woman spent nine days in jail before the charges were dropped, and the city later settled for $175,000.
DETECTIVE CHRISTOPHER J. SCHILLING Command: Brooklyn North Narcotics Unit Known lawsuits: 26
A detective in the Brooklyn narcotics unit for over a decade and trustee on the board of the Detectives' Endowment Association, Schilling has an alleged history of unlawful and violent searches and falsifying drug charges. In 2015, he was sued in federal court for allegedly bashing a suspect's face into the concrete, dragging him into a police van, denying him medical attention, and lying about finding drugs on him. As a result of the arrest, the victim said he spent three days in the hospital vomiting and urinating blood, and was later diagnosed with an acute kidney injury. The drug charges were dropped, and the city settled the ensuing complaint against Schilling for $47,500.
DETECTIVE JAMES R. RIVERA Command: Brooklyn North Narcotics Unit Known lawsuits: 26
Rivera has been a police officer for nearly two decades, and in that time has been affiliated with 26 known lawsuits, resulting in $1,389,000 in taxpayer-funded settlements. In 2012, he was accused of "viciously and unjustifiably" choking Brooklyn resident James Young until he lost consciousness, then handcuffing him to a park bench with "his eyes rolled back in his head and with foam around his mouth." Young fell into a coma and died four months later. The city settled with his window for $832,500, and Rivera faced no known discipline.
DETECTIVE SPECIALIST DAVID TERRELL 42nd Precinct, Bronx Known lawsuits: 25
A Bronx detective who specializes in gang investigations, David Terrell's alleged penchant for both brutality and pestering the mothers of his targets was documented in a recent New York Times magazine feature and in the podcast Conviction. In media appearances, he has repeatedly referred to Pedro Hernandez, the teenager who spent a year on Rikers Island for a charge that was later dismissed and has since become the face of bail reform, as a "vicious kid." He was also the subject of a 2011 internal disciplinary investigation, which found he was guilty of making inappropriate remarks to a minor and placing a fellow cop's arm around an unnamed individual — an offense for which he was docked 15 vacation days.
Though he's been sued more than two dozen times for brutality and other misconduct at a taxpayer cost of $684,500, Terrell was promoted to detective specialist in 2015. After allegedly challenging a fellow officer to a fight this past summer, he faced the threat of 25 lost vacation days and a year of probation — though it's unknown whether the police commissioner has signed off on the punishment yet.
DETECTIVE ODALIS M. PEREZ Bronx Narcotics Unit Known lawsuits: 25
The city has settled the majority of the 25 lawsuits in which Perez has been named, resulting in a $405,000 cost to taxpayers. At least four of the complaints also name Detective Abdiel Anderson — the city's most sued cop, per the database. In a federal suit, Perez stands accused of seizing a woman's cancer treatment, then handcuffing her and her boyfriend and taking them for a "rough ride" to the precinct. The drug charges were later dropped, and the city settled for an undisclosed sum.
DETECTIVE JOEL P. POLICHRON Brooklyn Narcotics Unit Known lawsuits: 25
A Brooklyn detective third grade since 2003, Polichron has been named in 25 lawsuits that have cost the city at least $235,250 over the years. He's faced numerous allegations of fabricating evidence, writing false police reports, and unprofessional behavior. In one suit, which was settled for $52,500, Polichron and two other officers allegedly burst into the home of a disabled man, arrested him for having $20 of "buy money" in his possession, and told his autistic child that their father was "a f'ing drug dealer." The city settled that case for $52,500.
Asked about whether police officers who rack up dozens of complaints and cost the city millions of dollars in legal settlements should face discipline from the NYPD, mayoral spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie said, "Each allegation needs to be thoroughly reviewed on its own merit, and each officer’s standing in the department should be assessed on the details and specifics of their own record.”