The NYPD’s new inspector general will likely have the ability to track police-related lawsuits against the city with data that will be required reporting from several city agencies.
The City Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations held a public hearing on Introduction 119, which would require IG Philip Eure to submit quarterly reports of all civil actions filed against the NYPD to the Council, the office of Comptroller Scott Stringer and the Civilian Complaint Review Board after he takes office on May 27.
Council members and speakers said the information could help the city identify patterns in procedures or among specific officers as ways of reducing the number of claims.
Councilman Rory Lancman, a member of the committee, said he supports the bill and gave Monday’s hearing a generally positive review.
“We need to know what the sources of all the lawsuits against the NYPD are,” Lancman said. “This is a way to address that and stem the tide of millions of dollars per year in judgement settlements that the city is paying.”
While he believes the city is aggressive in defending and weeding out claims against cops that it believes to be frivolous, or unfounded, Lancman also thinks the data that the Council is seeking can help cut that number even more.
The Councilman did, however, agree with Celeste Koeleveld, executive assistant for public safety in the city’s Law Department on timing.
Testifying at Monday’s hearing, she said the department believes any vote on the bill should be held off until after Eure and his staff take up their duties on the 27th, and after receiving their input on exactly what data they feel they need to do their jobs.
She said acting prematurely could lead to duplicative costs of time and money devoted to the personnel and computer equipment needed to fulfil any new directives.
Committee Chairman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) countered that time is of the essence, citing some 9,500 claims against the city in 2012 leading to payouts of more than $150 million.
But Koeleveld said the numbers need to be examined closely and carefully.
“The number 9,500 claims sounds like a lot,” she said. “But that may be total claims. We’re talking here about instances of police misconduct.”
In a follow-up email from the Law Department, Koeleveld said 9,500 may reflect the number of complaints sent to the Comptroller’s office.
“But the Law Department receives between 3,000 and 3,500 lawsuits alleging police misconduct per year,” she said. “That is not including car accidents, either. The 150,000,000 figure per total payouts may also include car accidents. Bottom line: I can’t confirm any of your numbers; they do not sound right.”
Eure, who is coming to the city from the District of Columbia Office of Police Complaints, was appointed after the City Council successfully overturned vetoes from former Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Mayor de Blasio and an overwhelming majority of the Council favored the move, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has said he is prepared to work with the new IG and his staff.
Advocates say Eure will not duplicate the efforts of the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau or those of the independent Civilian Complaint Review Board.