The NYPD is on track to spend far more in lawsuit payouts than in any year in recent history – more than $67 million to date – according to an analysis of newly published city data by the Legal Aid Society.

The analysis was shared exclusively with Gothamist ahead of its release. It shows the police department has already paid more through July than it did in all of 2020, and it has nearly surpassed the total for 2019. In recent years, the total for lawsuits has hovered between $60 million and $90 million.

The city data does not account for all police misconduct claims. The NYPD has spent even more on settlements with complainants who never formally filed litigation. In fiscal year 2021, the department paid $206.7 million overall, according to an annual report from the city comptroller’s office. Those payouts reportedly accounted for 37% of the city’s resolved civil cases that year.

The Police Benevolent Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, declined to comment for this story. The NYPD said in an email that about 70% of the payouts stem from four large settlements and that the rest of settlements track more closely with recent years. The largest payouts include a $13 million settlement in January, two $12 million settlements in May and July and a $10.5 million settlement in May, according to Gothamist’s review of the data.

Legal Aid attorney Corey Stoughton said it will take time to pinpoint the source of the massive increase in lawsuit payouts at this point in the year. But she said an initial review of the data has uncovered some patterns, including an increase in the number of lawsuits and the amount being paid out. She said higher settlements typically signal more serious misconduct and bigger impacts on victims’ lives.

Stoughton, who leads the organization’s law reform practice, said the payouts are also largely driven by a fraction of the department named in multiple suits. A 2019 Gothamist report found some officers had been named in dozens of lawsuits, in some cases costing taxpayers more than $1 million.

“Everything we know about police misconduct points to this conclusion that culture is what drives this problem and that a small number of officers who commit repeated misconduct create a culture that spreads misconduct,” Stoughton said. “Interrupting that cycle is critical to changing the patterns of policing that we see in New York City.”

One lawsuit settled last month for $12 million accused police of tackling a teenager to the ground, paralyzing him and ignoring his claims that he couldn’t move or feel his legs. One of the officers named in the suit, Pedro Rodriguez, had almost been fired several years earlier, after paying a $50,000 settlement for allegedly assaulting someone during an argument at one of his child's little league games, according to an NYPD memo. He was placed on dismissal probation for a year. A disclosure letter from the Kings County district attorney’s office also cites multiple other substantiated charges against him.

Lawsuits are not the only way to hold police accountable for misconduct. The Civilian Complaint Review Board can investigate some allegations and recommend discipline or termination if someone has violated policy. Proposed rule changes could soon grant the board even more power to review officers’ actions.

The NYPD also has its own internal systems to investigate and discipline officers. And a local law passed in 2020 required the NYPD to create an early warning system that flags officers who may need “enhanced training, monitoring, reassignment.”

Mayor Eric Adams has revived some police units accused of rampant misconduct in the past and has repeatedly voiced his support for the department. But in his state of the city address in April, he also urged officers to follow the rules.

"We will give the police the tools they deserve and they require, but my men and women that wear a blue uniform, we will not be abusive to the public that we swore to serve and protect," he said. "That is our obligation. That's the partnership."

When asked for further comment on the data, the mayor’s office noted that the payouts this year stem from lawsuits filed before his tenure.