New York City paid out a whopping $121 million in settlements over alleged police misconduct in 2022 — with critics sounding alarms Thursday about the number ballooning over the last five years.
Last year’s total marked a more than 40% increase from the $87 million shelled out by the NYPD in 2021, part of an upward trend in the amount paid to settle such civil claims, according to data compiled by the Legal Aid Society.
“The numbers are very high,” staff attorney Jennvine Wong, who works in Legal Aid’s special litigation unit, told The Post on Thursday.
“It makes us ask if the city is taking accountability of officers seriously.”
The data, collected by the Big Apple’s largest legal nonprofit from city Law Department public reports, shows 939 police misconduct lawsuits were settled last year.
Six of the lawsuits resulted in payouts of more than $10 million, accounting for about 60% — or roughly $73 million — of the total, according to the report released Thursday.
Among them was the $13 million settled to Muhammad Aziz, 84, one of two men wrongfully convicted for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X.
Aziz’s conviction — and that of his co-defendant, Khalil Islam — were tossed in 2021 after a renewed probe by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office unearthed evidence of their innocence that had been hidden from the defense at their trial by the NYPD and the FBI. Both men spent decades in prison.
A Law Department spokesman attributed the uptick in the settlement amount to the increased number of exonerations that have come as city district attorney’s offices continue to review prior criminal cases for wrongful convictions.
“We are committed to promptly reviewing matters to keep litigation costs down and to provide some measure of justice to plaintiffs who were wrongfully convicted,” spokesman Nick Paolucci said.
Last year’s tally could be even higher — as the city’s report doesn’t include the $13 million payout to the family of Islam, who died in 2009.
The city settled with Islam’s estate, which takes longer to process, according to Paolucci.
The omission, however, highlights how the city reports on NYPD lawsuit settlements remain incomplete, despite The Post revealing flaws in the tally four years ago.
Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017 signed a law requiring the city to post online “information about civil action alleging misconduct commenced against the police department and individual officers” twice a year.
But The Post later reported the city was missing settlements for millions of dollars. More than 400 lawsuits settled over just a three-month span in 2019 were omitted from the report, leaving $22 million in funds paid out unaccounted for, a data analysis found.
That’s because the Big Apple does not include settlements struck after complainants alerted the city of their intention to sue via a “notice of claim” but before a formal suit was filed.
It also fails to account for any lawsuits that were filed more than five years from when the report is released.
Those loopholes currently remain unaddressed despite outrage from lawmakers and groups such as Legal Aid, a review found.
“The data set itself is still imperfect but we should still be alarmed,” Wong said of the uptick over the last five years.
Paolucci defended the Law Department, saying the agency was “following the letter of the law.” “We are in 100% percent compliance with the plain language of the local law,” he added.
In a statement, an NYPD spokesperson noted that about 60% of the total payout in 2022 were attributable to wrongful conviction cases that “date back to events that occurred between 1965 and 2010.”
“Of the lawsuits that were filed and disposed of in 2022, total payouts amount to $16.8M, of which $13M is attributable to one wrongful conviction case from 1965,” the statement states. “The remaining $3.8M, makes up a less than 1.4%, of the payouts identified in this report (totaling $262.7M) and over 96% of that amount is attributable to police actions that occurred under previous administrations.”
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said civil settlements don’t provide a “fair or accurate measure” of how cops perform.
“The city routinely settles cases in which police officers have done nothing wrong, and some of the largest payouts arise from decades-old cases that don’t involve a single cop who is still on the job today,” Lynch said in a statement.