More than 50 Brooklyn cops have been sued at least four times, data shows
More than 50 Brooklyn police officers were hit with four or more federal civil rights lawsuits between January 2015 and June 2018, costing the city millions of dollars in settlements, according to a database compiled by The Legal Aid Society.
In East New York’s 75th Precinct – where cops were sued 94 times, more than twice that of the next-most-sued precinct – one dozen cops were named as defendants on four or more lawsuits.
David Grieco – a notorious Brooklyn cop known as Bullethead – set the pace at the precinct, with eight federal lawsuits filed against him and a grand total of 32 lawsuits in which he was a defendant, according to the database.
The database, known as CAPstat, is a compilation of publicly available lawsuits alleging civil rights violations filed against the NYPD in federal court. The data is limited to lawsuits filed between January 2015 and June 2018.
The city paid out $397,752 in settlements in lawsuits that named Grieco as a defendant.
“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 Legal Aid Society’s own disclaimer says they can’t vouch for the accuracy, credibility or reliability of the data,” a spokesperson for the NYPD said in an emailed statement.
Brooklyn North Narcotics Detective Francesco Allevato was also hit with eight federal lawsuits.
In one that the city settled for $38,500, Allevato and another officer allegedly tackled a man to the ground and arrested him for recording the officers forcing another man to the ground.
They took the plaintiff to the 75th Precinct, and on the way, one of the officers hit him in the head, saying, “You like to record shit?” according to the complaint filed in federal court.
Both Allevato and Grieco are still active in the police department, according to police. While they were not responsible for the biggest payouts from the city, some civil rights lawyers believe they represent a systemic problem of officers who know they will not be punished for their actions.
“The issue is that they’re not being disciplined when they commit misconduct and to the extent that they’re not disciplined, they will continue to engage in misconduct. They don’t have an incentive not to do it,” said Amy Rameau, a civil rights lawyer whose client settled for $10,000 in a lawsuit against Allevato.
“They feel they’re getting carte blanche to act how they see fit,” Rameau said.
Ron Kuby, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney, agreed.
“If you could go around committing crimes and other people will not only pick up your tab, but also reimburse any successful settlement, and you’re never going to get arrested for those crimes, it doesn’t provide much inducement for being good,” Kuby said.
Brooklyn saw the vast majority of lawsuits against officers, with the top five most sued precincts all in the borough.
Queens, comparatively, only had seven officers who were sued four or more times, an analysis of the data showed.
Kuby attributed Brooklyn’s high rate of lawsuits to the borough’s history as “ground zero” of the crack epidemic. “The most aggressive and violent policing took place in Brooklyn,” Kuby said.
“I think this is a product of that historical place – that place and time in history – and it has been reinforced and actively supported by a variety of sitting judges and many assistant district attorneys.”
Overall, 2,326 total civil rights lawsuits were filed against the NYPD between January 2015 and June 2018. Of those, 790 were settled for $53,790,898, according to the database.
According to the Legal Aid Society, the goal of the CAPstat data is to inform the public about instances of police misconduct, which are often hidden behind a law that allows the NYPD not to disclose officers’ disciplinary records: Civil Rights Law 50-a.
“This administration hides behind 50-a to prevent vital transparency, and I thank the Legal Aid Society for providing this tool that can be used for change,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Follow reporter Noah Goldberg on Twitter.
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