2009-12-23 / Features

Vallone: ‘Tracking Cop Misconduct Lawsuits Could Lower Settlements’

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Vallone’s legislation would require the Law Department to submit quarterly reports to the city council detailing the number and disposition of civil actions filed against the NYPD. By recording this data, he explained, the NYPD and the Law Department would have the necessary tools to examine claims and settlements, identify trends at specific precincts or with individual police officers and make assessments for potential policy reform. Vallone’s legislation would require the Law Department to submit quarterly reports to the city council detailing the number and disposition of civil actions filed against the NYPD. By recording this data, he explained, the NYPD and the Law Department would have the necessary tools to examine claims and settlements, identify trends at specific precincts or with individual police officers and make assessments for potential policy reform. Seeking to reduce the amount of money the city pays out for suits against police officers, City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. has introduced legislation to prevent frivolous claims and better track police misconduct to reduce the number of payouts.

“Right now, the city doesn’t admit to fault, trial attorneys and plaintiffs make millions, no action is taken to ensure that this does not happen again and the taxpayers are getting fleeced,” Vallone declared.

Suggesting that there may be a better way to deal with these suits and settlements, Vallone added, “As we’ve seen with CompStat and the Firearms Discharge Report, recording and examining data in this way has been extremely beneficial for the city.”

Vallone pointed out that under the present system, according to city Comptroller William C. Thompson’s annual claims report, in 2008 the city Law Department paid $35 million, up from $25 million for the previous year, for police misconduct lawsuits filed against the city.

“It is bad policy to settle the vast majority of cases instead of fighting them in court,” Vallone (D–Astoria) stated. “We must learn from these cases to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

Vallone’s legislation would require the Law Department to submit quarterly reports to the city council detailing the number and disposition of civil actions filed against the NYPD.

By recording this data, he explained, the NYPD and the Law Department would have the necessary tools to examine claims and settlements, identify trends at specific precincts or with individual police officers and make assessments for potential policy reform.

Vallone, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said that according to his legislation, the Law Department would be required to submit the quarterly reports with the following seven components:

•The number of actions pending

•The number of claims in each action •The amount of time each action had been pending •The nature of each claim

•The resolution of each claim

•Whether the resolution was achieved through settlement or trial and

•The amount of any settlement.

Actions pending resolution would also be reported and their final resolutions noted in a subsequent report.

The council Government Operations Committee on December 11 held a hearing on Vallone’s bill. Various advocacy groups and civil rights attorneys provided testimony in support of the bill, Vallone said.

The Citizen Union was among the groups that presented testimony, saying in part, “Mandating that the Corporation Counsel file quarterly reports with the City Council regarding police action claims hopefully will create greater transparency regarding such claims.”

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