By Graham Rayman
May 02, 2019
Cops who rack up the most overtime tend to get hit with more lawsuits, a Legal Aid Society analysis shows.
According to the analysis, cops who averaged 406 hours of overtime per year from 2015 to 2018 were sued five or more times in federal court — while officers who worked an average of 214 hours overtime a year during the same period weren’t involved in any lawsuits.
The trend doesn’t hold for straight time work, the analysis found. Cops who work 1,000 hours of straight time in a year, for example, don’t get sued any more often that cops who work 800 hours of straight time.
“These data show that the Department allows its officers to rake in unlimited overtime without much concern for the lawsuits filed against them by New Yorkers alleging misconduct,” said Julie Ciccolini, an analyst with the Special Litigation Unit at the society. “Our analysis makes it apparent once again that providing a monetary motivation to make arrests will result in more abusive and unconstitutional policing.”
The analysis, done via the society’s Capstat website, shows that as the number of lawsuits per officers increases, so does the average annual overtime. In all, 78 cops have five or more lawsuits. A total of 97 have four lawsuits while they were earning an average of 392 hours of overtime a year. A total of 242 cops have three or more while earning an average of 351 hours of overtime a year.
But critics lashed out at the analysis, calling it slanted and biased.
“The analysis stands to reason because the heavier overtime earners have heavier arrest activity and as a result, more engagement with suspects. The more engagement, the higher the risk for being sued," said Michael Palladino, head of the Detectives Endowment Association.
And Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, bashed the analysis as “part of a concerted effort to delegitimize policing” with “personal attacks on uniformed public officials.”
“It is succeeding in large part because this administration stands idly by when the NYPD is smeared,” he said, suggesting Police Commissioner James O’Neill isn’t being allowed to defend cops.
“Legal Aid highlights a handful of multi-million dollar settlements of false conviction settlements over a multi-year period as though that is a representative sample of the entire universe of allegations," he said, asserting: "In fact, in the LAS data base, only a couple of hundred cases in all of the years covered — for a 35,000 officer department — are for more than $50,000. The rest represent essentially nuisance payments of a few thousand dollars in cases, many of which feature highly contestable facts.”
Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, also derided the analysis. “Despite their best effort to put an anti-police spin on the numbers, Legal Aid has only proved what cops have known all along: We are routinely sued just for doing our jobs," he said. “The more time you spend taking dangerous criminals off the street, the more likely it is that one of those criminals will retaliate with a frivolous lawsuit.”
Waliur Rahman, a detective first grade in Brooklyn North Narcotics, earned an average of 607 hours of overtime a year between 2015 and 2018 — and was a defendant in 12 lawsuits during that time. The city settled a number of the lawsuits for a total of $182,500. Between 2007 through 2014, Rahman was named in 23 other lawsuits; he was promoted to detective first grade in December 2018.
In 2014, the city settled one of his lawsuits for $833,000 to the wife of James Young, who died during a confrontation with narcotics cops. Young fell unconscious while being arrested, began foaming at the mouth and died after four months in a coma. Young’s wife sued, claiming the police failed to give him medical aid.
Sgt. Adan Munoz, meanwhile, averaged 430 hours of overtime a year from 2015 to 2018. He was named in 16 lawsuits during that time, which cost the city $910,001 in settlements.
Officer Francesco Allevato made 423 hours of overtime in the period, and was sued six times, resulting in settlements totaling $566,000. He was promoted to detective third grade in 2016, and has since been sued six more times.
NYPD spokeswoman Jessica McRorie said new lawsuits against officers are down 50% since 2014.
“The information included in the Legal Aid Capstat database is misleading at best,” she said.
“For instance, the site does not account for whether officers were served with a complaint, whether claims against them were dismissed by judges or juries, or the nature of their involvement —if any — in the incidents at issue in these litigations. These are troubling yet common deficiencies in this database, not just for this officer, but for many officers included in it,” McRorie said.