The least populated borough in the city has the highest number of most-sued NYPD officers, Daily News reports. Staten Island’s 120th Precinct is particularly troubled, covering the area near Tompkinsville Park where Eric Garner died after Officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in an illegal chokehold.
The 120th Precinct narcotics unit specifically has cost the city $6 million in lawsuit payouts between 2003 and 2013, most of them for wrongful arrest. There are only 40 officers and supervisors on staff — about one-fifth of Brooklyn North Narcotics unit — but it manages to include seven of the city’s top 10 most-sued officers (and 14 of the city’s top 50 most-sued officers).
Nearly all of the cases cite false arrest for charges that ended up getting tossed or sealed — ranging from people collared for their own prescription drugs, to haphazard raids that allegedly swept up innocents and ruined lives.
“There’s a culture in Staten Island, and particularly this precinct, where you break the rules and serve your own interest and don’t have to worry about getting into any kind of trouble,” said lawyer Brett Klein, who’s filed dozens of lawsuits against officers in the borough. “A lot of officers live there, and they’re more isolated from the other boroughs and more off the radar.”
Like the anti-crime unit which apprehended Garner for selling loosie cigarettes, the Staten Island narcotics unit is “involved in aggressive, proactive policing.”