By Tina Moore, Craig McCarthy and Yaron Steinbuch
March 7, 2019
A newly released database allows New Yorkers to peruse thousands of lawsuits filed against the NYPD — allowing them to track how much taxpayer money has been spent to settle cases against cops in their local precincts since 2015.
The nonprofit Legal Aid Society launched CAPStat on Wednesday as part of a national drive to publicize allegations of police misconduct.
The effort has gained momentum recently after several fatal shootings by police sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.
Legal Aid attorney Cynthia Conti-Cook, who is spearheading the database project with the group’s Cop Accountability Project team, said one aim is to identify, track and analyze misconduct patterns.
“CAPstat will help New Yorkers gain a more thorough understanding of lawsuits filed against the NYPD for misconduct and will help the public hold the NYPD accountable for reoccurring patterns of misconduct that the department itself routinely ignores,” Conti-Cook said in a statement announcing the site’s launch Wednesday.
But police unions warn that the information about 2,339 lawsuits contains false allegations that could help guilty defendants tarnish the credibility of police witnesses.
“The intent of this database is clearly to help guilty criminals beat the charges against them,” Patrick Lynch, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president, told The Post.
“By publishing this database online, they will be doing even greater damage: Anyone with a grudge against cops will be free to peruse the false and frivolous allegations against specific officers and use them as inspiration for a campaign of harassment, intimidation or worse.”
Ed Mullins, who heads the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said cops in the city are being used as political pawns.
“Any NYPD member who continues to police this city without the backing of the mayor and police commissioner is crazy and jeopardizing their own personal careers, families and lives,” he said. “They need to rethink their commitment to a city that no longer cares about them.”
The online trove contains suits filed from January 2015 through mid-2018 against 3,897 cops — as well as internal disciplinary records for about 1,800 officers accused of misconduct between 2011 and 2015.
The database of public records culled from state and federal court websites is searchable by an officer’s name, unit, precinct and type of allegation, or by the names of those who filed the lawsuit.
It includes a summary of the complaint and the outcome of each case, but the Legal Aid Society said it could not guarantee the accuracy of all the allegations, since many cases are settled without any admission of wrongdoing.
New York law prohibits the release of results of internal police probes, which are considered personnel records.
The NYPD said that “not all lawsuits filed for money have legal merit.”
“The ones that do can be valuable tools we use to improve officer performance and enhance training or policy where necessary,” the department said in an email to The Post.
The commands with the highest number of complaints against cops include the plainclothes narcotics units in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The 75th Precinct, which comprises Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood, was involved in 91 lawsuits, the most of any precinct, with settlements totaling more than $9.1 million.
Julie Ciccolini, who supervised the data collection and design of CAPstat, told The Post a goal of the project was to help inform city residents about the officers who police their neighborhood.
“Sometimes it paints a really clear picture of misconduct by a team or officer that has gone unnoticed,” said Ciccolini.
Ciccolini said her group has received positive feedback from cops despite union responses. She said many officers welcomed the transparency and the ability to look up their partner’s history.
Detective Abdiel Anderson from Bronx Narcotics has faced 44 lawsuits since 2015, the most of any officer, according to the database.
Detective Sgt. David Grieco of the 75th Precinct has been sued at least 31 times, resulting in at least $410,752 in settlement payments, the data shows.