Suing the Police after Civil Rights Abuses
While police officers are expected to uphold the law in the performance of their duties, officers sometimes engage in unethical or unlawful behavior that violates people’s rights. When this occurs, the victim of a civil rights violation may have the option of suing the police.
NYPD Lawsuit Statistics
According to the New York City Comptroller, in fiscal year 2020, the NYPD had a total of 5,728 tort claims (“tort claims” include both personal injury claims and property damage claims) filed against it. That’s a two percent decrease from the 5,851 tort claims that were filed against the Department in FY 2019. The Department also paid out $205 million in settlements and judgments in FY 2020. Tort claims against the NYPD accounted for about 38 percent of all total tort claims against the City of New York in FY 2020.
Common Civil Rights Abuses
Common civil rights abuses that can be committed by the police include:
- False arrest. This occurs when the police arrest an individual without a warrant or without probable cause to believe that the individual has committed a crime. Police must lack probable cause at the time of the arrest for a false arrest to occur. A false arrest does not occur if further investigation merely clears an individual from criminal suspicion.
- Malicious prosecution. This occurs when police initiate criminal prosecution without probable cause. A malicious prosecution claim may arise when a criminal prosecution is terminated in the defendant’s favor, and the police acted with malice in bringing the prosecution. Malice may include intentionally starting a prosecution to harm an individual as well as recklessly disregarding facts that show a lack of probable cause for the prosecution.
- Excessive force/unreasonable use of force. This typically arises in the context of police employing deadly force against an unarmed suspect or using force that causes injury against a suspect who is not resisting. Unreasonable use of force may also occur when police immediately resort to force without first verbally commanding a suspect to comply or if they employ any physical force against an already-restrained suspect.
- Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse may include rape, sexual contact, or exposing the intimate parts of a suspect’s body in police custody or detention.
What You Need to Know about Suing the Police
If your rights were violated by the police, you might be entitled to file a legal claim against the officers involved as well as the police department and the city. Many civil rights claims filed against the police are filed under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which gives individuals the right to file suit against public officials who violate their civil rights under the color of government authority. However, to file suit against a law enforcement agency in New York, you will need to serve a notice of claim against the agency within 90 days of the alleged incident giving rise to your civil rights claim.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Pursuing a civil rights claim against the NYPD or another police department can often be difficult. Unfortunately, police departments and local government entities often resist efforts to investigate civil rights abuses by law enforcement, and police officers may choose to “close ranks” to protect fellow officers who have committed civil rights violations. An attorney can help you stand up to law enforcement agencies and governments to demand accountability by:
- Aggressively investigating your claims to recover evidence needed to prove that your rights were violated
- Documenting your injuries and losses, including physical injuries and disability you may have suffered, as well as financial losses due to the loss of employment
- Preparing and timely filing your notice of claim and lawsuit to ensure your right to pursue financial recovery are preserved
- Vigorously pursuing full financial compensation for you through a settlement or by taking your claims to trial if necessary
If you believe your civil rights have been violated by the police, contact The Mandel Law Firm today for a free, confidential consultation to speak with a New York City civil rights lawyer. Call us now at (646) 770-3868. We can help you better understand your legal options for pursuing financial recovery and justice from the city and the officers who harmed you.