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Lawsuits Against Police: NYC’s Most Sued Cops Who Are Still on the Job
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Photo: The New York Post/PrtSc

Lawsuits Against Police: NYC’s Most Sued Cops Who Are Still on the Job

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A series of fatal shootings by the police, numerous deaths of innocent people, an unfair justice system and the ensuing protests – all of this shows both society’s exhaustion and the necessity of taking decisive measures. The Legal Aid Society – a nonprofit group protecting, defending, and advocating “for those that have struggled in silence for far too long” – has launched a searchable New York City database of publicly available lawsuits filed against members of the NYPD. Moreover, it has revealed some other unpleasant aspects of the broken police system: A number of officers have not even been fired after allegations against them.

Thanks to the Legal Aid Society, the details of thousands of lawsuits by people who say they are victims of police misconduct in New York City became available online Wednesday.

The New York City database called CAPstat includes court records, news articles, and published decisions about officers that defense attorneys have obtained. It will also incorporate four years of internal disciplinary records leaked to BuzzFeed News last year, even though those records are confidential under state law. The data collection was inspired in part by the city’s position on police disciplinary records – that they are confidential under state Civil Rights Law section 50-a.

capstat.nyc / PrtSc

This is the first time such information on the city’s police department has been publicly accessible in one place.

CAPstat is searchable by an officer’s name, unit, precinct, rank and type of allegation – or by the names of the people filing suit.

The current version of CAPstat includes a tool that allows users to see where officers have been sued for misconduct work, and with whom. The site also lets people map precincts with high numbers of officers who have been sued. The commands with the highest volume of complaints include the plainclothes narcotics units in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

capstat.nyc / PrtSc

Here is information from the CAPstat database.

• Out of 307 lawsuits filed in which the plaintiff was identified as black, 96 were settled for a total of $7,554,755.

• Out of 55 lawsuits filed in which the plaintiff was identified as Latino, 16 were settled for a total of $1,157,500.

• Out of 238 lawsuits filed in which the plaintiff was identified as female, 74 were settled for a total of $2,166,805.

• 72 lawsuits were filed citing “retaliation for recording”; 27 were settled for a total of $711,256.

• 48 lawsuits were filed citing the use of a “chokehold”; 21 were settled for a total of $846,001.

• 292 lawsuits were filed citing “tight handcuffs”; 106 were settled for a total of $2,438,437.

• The 75th precinct, which includes Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood, was involved in the most lawsuits of any precinct: 91. The settlements totaled more than $9.1 million.

“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,” Julie Ciccolini, a project manager at the Legal Aid Society who oversaw the design of CAPstat, 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.”

To date, the database includes 2,358 lawsuits filed from January 2015 through mid-2018 against 3,911 officers, as well as internal disciplinary records for about 1,800 officers accused of misconduct between 2011 and 2015. Cops’ salaries and promotion information is also available.

No wonder police unions in New York warn that the information includes false allegations.

“This database is clearly to help guilty criminals beat the charges against them,” Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in an email to the New York Times.

“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,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, Staff Attorney with Legal Aid’s Special Litigation Unit.

“With today’s launch, we join a national movement including fellow defenders, advocates, and community members to shed much needed daylight on police departments and their actions.”

“Our interest is not just who is a bad officer,” Ms. Conti-Cook said. “The interest is in which commands are really cultivating the type of misconduct that systematically goes undisciplined, completely unchecked, unsupervised and allows officers to act without any accountability?”

Public Advocate-elect Jumaane Williams only sees an upside to having the data available.

“Two barriers that we face toward real policing reform are a lack of transparency and accountability — and accountability requires transparency. I believe that the CAPStat database will be a vital tool for the public as well as for the NYPD and advocates to review, to find and address systemic failures,” Williams (D-Brooklyn) said.

Joanna Schwartz, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies misconduct suits, said the CAPstat database could also be used by the police and city officials to identify problematic officers and units.

The police are not pleased, though…

“The intent of this database is clearly to help guilty criminals beat the charges against them,” Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said.

“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.”

Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project said the database will help identify patterns of police misconduct. “Transparency will earn the public’s trust and promises to deliver more reliable criminal justice outcomes by enabling documented findings of misconduct to be made public,” he said. “Work is being done in this area now in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and more - so why not New York? Unfortunately the Empire State has the unique distinction of having the worst law in the country and our entire system of justice suffers for it.”

The Gothamist combed the database for the police officers who have been named in the most lawsuits in recent decades.

Here’re ten of them who are still on the job.

Detective Abdiel R. Anderson

Abdiel Anderson is NYC’s most sued cop, according to Legal Aid Society (via LinkedIn)

Command: Bronx Narcotics Unit

Known lawsuits: 44

Abdiel Anderson, a veteran police officer who’s spent the last decade as a detective third grade in the Bronx’s narcotics unit, has been the target of 44 lawsuits since 2015, the most of any officer, according to the database. The department has settled in at least 19 of the federal lawsuits, resulting in taxpayer funded payouts totalling $524,000.

According to the Legal Aid Society, 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, a veteran anti-crime detective who worked in the 75th Precinct, has been sued at least 31 times, resulting in at least $410,752 in settlement payments, the data shows.

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 to 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, Gothamist reports. 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.

David “Bullethead” Grieco has been the subject of several tabloid investigations / The Daily News

Detective Anthony T. Disimone

Command: Bronx Narcotics Unit

Known lawsuits: 28

Disimone, who spent more than two decades with the NYPD, has been affiliated with 28 known lawsuits, racking up a taxpayer bill of $400,000.

In 2012, he and a handful of other Bronx narcotics officers raided an apartment on 169th Street: The officers pulled a naked woman from her bed, tossed her to the ground, and pointed 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 M. Brown
Command: Bronx Narcotics Unit

Known Lawsuits: 27

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 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. He cost the taxpayers $997,502.

Detective Christopher J. Schilling

Christopher Schilling / nycdetectives.org

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

A police officer for nearly two decades, Rivera 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 widow for $832,500, and Rivera faced no known discipline.

Detective Specialist David R. Terrell

David Terrell / The New York Post

Command: 42nd Precinct, Bronx

Known lawsuits: 25

Terrell, branded a “monster” and “terrorist” by critics, has been sued multiple times on allegations of making false arrests and roughing people up. His 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.

Even 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
Command: 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

Command: Brooklyn Narcotics Unit

Known lawsuits: 25

Polichron’s 25 lawsuits have cost the city at least $235,250 since 2003. 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.

When 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.”

Author: USA Really