The New York City Legal Aid Society has released a searchable database of federal lawsuits brought against New York City police, which it said could arm plaintiffs attorneys with crucial information for their own civil rights suits.
The database, called CAPstat, contains more than 2,350 lawsuits filed from January 2015 to June 2018 against more than 3,900 officers, which are searchable by the names of plaintiffs and defendants, as well as the commands and precincts that officer-defendants have worked for.
Additionally, the database can show the various co-defendants involved in lawsuits, which could help identify issues caused by teams of officers rather than laying blame at the feet of “one bad apple cop,” said Julie Ciccolini, who served as project manager for the database.
Ciccolini said the project was four years in the making—it began with the intent of developing an internal database for public defenders to help them track civil rights lawsuits. But she said Legal Aid staff realized that the data being gathered would be valuable to policymakers, the broader public and “anyone whose rights have been violated by the police.”
“We definitely hope civil rights attorneys are able to use this as a tool to look up the officers they are suing to look up larger problems,” Ciccolini said.
The database also contains New York City Police Department payroll data and disciplinary summaries that BuzzFeed News published last year. Disclaimers on the site note that the information comes from federal—not state—lawsuits filed during a limited timeline and that Legal Aid did not interview plaintiffs to the lawsuits entered into the database to determine their credibility as part of the project.
Following the announcement Wednesday that the database was being unveiled, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association took to Twitter to criticize the database as “anti-cop.”
“An overwhelming number of lawsuits against police officers are meritless claims filed for nuisance value in hopes of a quick payout from the city,” PBA president Patrick Lynch said in a statement posted on the union’s Twitter account. “Public defenders know full well that allegations aren’t facts but that doesn’t stop them from using these baseless suits to try to distract and confuse judges and juries, turning the trials of their drug-dealing, armed-robbing clients into inquisitions against the police officers who brought them to justice.”