As protests continue across the nation, the conversation of police brutality has now emerged on the frontlines of daily lives. Despite the current newfound attention, police brutality has had a profound effect on municipalities across the country for a long time. Just last year, police brutality cases contributed to over $300 million in lawsuit settlements, according to an ABC News study.
Right here in New York City, home to the largest police department in the nation, the NYPD was responsible for over half of the $300 million dollars in lawsuits last year. The city paid out $175.9 million dollars and an additional $4 million when including the city comptroller’s office expenses. The most condemning part of the situation lies in the fact that police officers are often not reprimanded or fired as a result of their misconduct and abuse but rather taxpayers are held responsible for funding these lawsuits year in and year out. For the next fiscal year, taxpayers will be responsible for contributing 6 cents of every dollar to miscellaneous payouts.
Police brutality is defined as the use of any force that exceeds the reasonable amount necessary to establish a lawful police purpose. After the tragic death of George Floyd and countless other unarmed civilians, protests ensued in all 50 states to speak out and denounce the unjust misuse of power held by police. Citizens around the nation watched as George Floyd pleaded for his life while a police officer kept a knee to his neck for 8 minutes as his fellow officers watched on without intervening. This video illuminated the structural and problematic problems ingrained in our police force.
As protests erupted and video cameras documented the calls for justice, the actions of police on the frontlines demonstrated the exact reason behind the protests. Earlier this month, a 75- year old Buffalo man, Martin Gugino, can be seen on video being pushed to the ground by two police officers in riot gear. After being shoved backwards by the police officers, Gugino began bleeding from his head as police officers continued to walk past him. He has now suffered a fractured skull and a brain injury. Bedridden and unable to walk, Gugino still believes that the problems of police brutality deserve attention, stating that "I think it's very unnecessary to focus on me. There are plenty of other things to think about besides me."
This incidence is only one of the many where police have used excessive force upon innocent citizens while boasting their uniform. Not only does acts of police brutality such as those imposed upon George Floyd and Martin Gugino violate an individual’s constitutional rights, but it also has negative financial implications for taxpayers of the counties and municipalities that these incidences occur in.
Police brutality is both expensive and unjust. The blatant violation of one’s civil rights come with dire consequences – injury, costly lawsuits and most tragically death in some occasions. Police reform is necessary and essential to the betterment of society- not only for direct victims but for taxpayers and anyone who believes in the right for justice.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of police brutality, please call litigation partner Thomas P. Giuffra or Edward A. Ruffo for a free, confidential consultation. Their litigation experience against the NYPD will help them evaluate any potential claims you may have.