New York City is on track to fork over more than $100 million this year in payouts for lawsuits alleging police misconduct against members of the New York City Police Department. Twenty of the officers stand out over the last decade for being named in the most suits or being named in suits with the highest payouts. Of the 20, the department has promoted at least 16 of the officers, some more than once.
“They’re kind of failing upwards when they’re not only staying in the department but they’re also being promoted,” said Jennvine Wong, staff attorney with the Cop Accountability Project at the Legal Aid Society, a public defense organization in New York City. Last month, Legal Aid released an analysis of data on settlements in cases alleging police misconduct.
NYPD Sgt. David Grieco, a cop with the street nickname of “Bullethead,” was named in at least 17 suits between his hiring in 2006 and his first promotion in 2016. After advancing to the rank of sergeant in 2017, he was named in at least eight more suits. That promotion came less than one week after Grieco was named in his 28th suit. Since his last promotion, Grieco has been named in at least 27 additional lawsuits. Payouts for suits naming Grieco exceeded $1 million this year.
Few of the officers named in lawsuits, and none in this story, ever face judgments in court — criminal or civil. New York City, whose lawyers defend NYPD cops, often arrange out-of-court settlements, paying huge sums to make cases going away under the frequent condition that the police admit no wrongdoing. The city has already paid out more than $50 million in lawsuits in the first half of this year. (The police did not respond to a request for comment.)
Grieco is not the only officer who the NYPD promoted after being named in multiple lawsuits alleging misconduct. The NYPD has a history of promoting officers who have been found to lie in cases or engage in misconduct.
Detective Specialist Wilfredo Benitez was hired in 2008 as a police officer. Over the next nine years, Benitez was named in at least nine suits alleging misconduct. He was promoted to detective in 2017 and has been named in at least 11 additional suits since then. Settlements in suits naming Benitez have paid more than $480,000.
Lt. Henry Daverin started at the NYPD in 2008 and promoted to sergeant in 2013. Daverin was named in at least 19 suits between 2013 and 2017, when he was promoted to his current role as lieutenant. Settled police misconduct suits that named Daverin have paid out at least $1.5 million since 2013.
Detective Jodi Brown joined the force as a police officer in 2005. He was named in at least seven suits alleging misconduct between then and his first promotion to detective in 2015. Since then, Brown has been named in at least 30 more suits that have paid a total of $1.3 million in settlements.
Detective Abdiel Anderson was hired as a police officer in 2003. He was named in two lawsuits shortly afterward. In 2008, he was promoted to detective. Anderson has been named in at least 43 suits since then, with settled cases paying out more than half a million dollars.
Detective Eugene Keller first became a police officer in 2012 and was named in at least three lawsuits over the next decade. Keller was promoted to detective last year. Suits naming him have paid more than $4.1 million.
“You have officers that are just repeatedly costing the city quite a lot.”
The promotions given to cops repeatedly named in lawsuits that have cost the city tens of millions of dollars suggest that the department isn’t invested in addressing misconduct.
“It just becomes a cost of doing business,” Wong said. “That’s a problem.”
Police officers who carry out misconduct don’t come out of nowhere, Wong said. “You have officers that are just repeatedly costing the city quite a lot,” she said.
Findings of liability in civil suits trigger investigations by the NYPD, but with most suits settled, there is often nothing to trigger that response, Wong said.
Considering the number of lawsuits, though, it stretches credulity to suggest that nothing is amiss simply because there are no judgments in court or internal investigations, Wong said: “It shows a pattern of misconduct.”