Bloated Police Budgets Don’t Make Us Safe 

“The City Council must have the courage to use the budget to hold the NYPD accountable.”

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Three years ago, nine NYPD officers responded to a 911 call that changed my life forever. And while I received some form of justice recently for what occurred, I am concerned that unless New York City uses the city budget to hold the NYPD accountable, their unjust treatment of New Yorkers, particularly Black and brown New Yorkers like me, will continue, costing millions in taxpayer dollars that could be better spent on services that would make residents safer and healthier.

In 2021, I was wrongfully arrested by the police. The police came to my home after a neighbor called 911 when they heard that my uncle was arguing with my nephew. The nine officers who responded barged into our home without a warrant, drew their tasers as they illegally searched for my nephew, and upon finding him, violently tackled him to the ground as I screamed in terror, begging the officers to explain why they were doing this. They responded by arresting me too.

Because I had not committed any crime, the officers needed to lie in the documents the police use to prosecute people. I felt like I was being kidnapped by the police. They left me in a cell in the precinct overnight, and I was detained for nearly two days before I was released. I was prosecuted for five months before a judge dismissed the case.

Afterwards, I filed a lawsuit against the city and the nine officers who violated my rights. The city recently agreed to pay me $125,000 for what those officers did, but the officers themselves faced no punishment. They did not contribute to the settlement, they were not fired, and they were not disciplined. 

I’m not the only one who has faced unjust treatment at the hands of the police. Just last week, a report was released that should shock and enrage every New Yorker. In 2023, the city paid over $114 million in wrongful arrest lawsuits like mine. In fact, since 2018, the NYPD’s misconduct has cost taxpayers more than half a billion dollars. These payments coincide with historic increases in lawsuits, which shows that what is happening here is an NYPD run amok.

The city should absolutely compensate New Yorkers when their rights are violated. But the city should also prevent these lawsuits from happening in the first place by holding the NYPD sufficiently accountable for its law-breaking, retaliation, and aggression.

In 2024, New Yorkers are projected to fund the NYPD at $10.8 billion to help pay for the salaries of officers like the ones who violated my rights. This bloated budget, which makes up 10 percent of the city’s overall budget, allows officers to engage in wasteful, illegal behavior: over-responding to 911 calls, entering people’s homes without a warrant and without consent, arresting people for trumped up charges, and lying on police reports.

It’s clear that without budget consequences, the NYPD will continue to pay officers’ salaries and pay out large settlements, while simultaneously demanding more taxpayer money from the city, depriving New Yorkers of both safety when interacting with the police and important services that actually keep people safe and healthy, like greater access to housing, transportation, food, jobs, and other economic and social benefits or opportunities.

The NYPD argues that the $10.8 billion budget is necessary for public safety, yet it never addresses why the department should be rewarded when so many officers fail to follow written policies and procedures, violate the law, and forge police reports that can ruin a person’s life and their family’s well-being forever, all without penalty. Such financial and legal mismanagement would never be accepted in a private corporation, and we should not accept it from the NYPD.

I filed my lawsuit against the NYPD because I want to change how it polices my community and I want them to follow the law. I do not want anyone else to have to go through what I went through. The NYPD must change its ways, or we New Yorkers will continue to pay for their salaries while they continue to break the law.

New Yorkers deserve to live in a safe and healthy city, where the police do their jobs according to the law. Instead, we have an inflated police budget and officers who trample on our rights without any accountability, leaving us less safe and with worse schools, crumbling infrastructure, and less money for services that improve all our lives.

The City Council must have the courage to use the budget to hold the NYPD accountable. Otherwise, this pattern of abuse and intergenerational trauma will continue. 

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