MANHATTAN (CN) — A $75 million deal approved by a federal judge Monday will compensate roughly 850,000 black New Yorkers blamed police quotas for phony summonses.
“This civil rights class action is the paradigm of change and progress achievable in a society undergirded by the rule of law,” U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet wrote in a 31-page ruling on Monday. “Skilled and dedicated counsel for the parties, aided by a highly experienced and pragmatic mediator, have reached a resolution benefiting all concerned.”
The ruling comes seven years after East Village resident Sharif Stinson brought a 2010 class action that accused the New York City Police Department of running an unconstitutional quota system primarily targeting people of color.
Multiple NYPD whistleblowers — notably, eight-year veterans Adrian Schoolcraft and Pedro Serrano — have stepped forward in the intervening years with corroborating evidence, including videotapes of police brass ordering rank-and-file officers to ramp up so-called “productivity goals.”
As Stinson’s lawyers pursued evidence that the orders came from the top of the NYPD’s chain of command, documents related to former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and ex-chief of department Joseph Esposito went missing.
New York City settled shortly after Judge Sweet sanctioned them for “gross negligence” in evidence destruction.
Sweet now applauded both sides for the case’s resolution.
“The strongly held positions, vigorously litigated and, initially, diametrically opposed, have been illuminated by facts developed in the discovery process and resolved,” he wrote. “Thanks to the skill of those involved and a concerned administration, those injured will be compensated, police procedures will be clarified and strengthened, and the rights of all citizens will be fortified through what has been represented as the largest settlement of Fourth Amendment claims in New York City history.”
The sheer number of New Yorkers of color believed to have had their rights violated adds up to a relatively small payout for each class member.
A $56.5 million pool will be used for maximum payouts of $150 per person and incident.
Five potential class members failed to sway Sweet that the portion sizes were too small.
“Given the degree of injury inherent in improperly receiving a summons, on average about five to ten minutes during which time the summons was written up while the class member simply had to wait, damages of $150 per summons is sufficient to find that portion of the settlement fair,” he wrote.
The city already has sent out more than 922,000 notices to potential class members,
and plans to look for more with an advertising campaign in major newspapers. A little more than 39,000 have submitted claims so far.
Any unclaimed money will go back to the city, and attorneys for the classwill receive $18.5 million.
Within three months of the settlement’s approval, the NYPD must start issuing department-wide communications that quotas are improper and subject to internal investigation.
The department must also revise its training for new recruits with instructions on blowing the whistle on violations.
Representatives for the city have not responded to a request for comment.