- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - The New York Police Department should analyze the growing roster of lawsuits filed against officers to improve their performance and flag trends of misconduct, a watchdog agency said Tuesday.

Over 15,000 lawsuits have been filed against the NYPD in the last five years, with the annual total rising 44 percent in that time, the city’s inspector general for police said. The suits have cost the department over $200 million.

While lawsuit claims aren’t necessarily legitimate, “when the data is properly gathered and analyzed, litigation data can still be used for positive, proactive improvements in policing,” Inspector General Philip K. Eure’s report said.

The NYPD uses a computerized system to track officer performance and police trends, and the department does cull some information from police litigation, such as the number of suits filed against an officer. But the NYPD doesn’t track such key indicators as core allegations and the location of the incidents, Eure said.

The NYPD said it was reviewing the report, while the head of the rank-and-file police union said lawsuits are too often baseless to make them a proper gauge of police performance.

“We don’t see where there is any validity to using them in evaluating the actions of individual officers,” said Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

Some other police departments harness lawsuit data to address behavior that may otherwise go unidentified, Eure said.

Making better use of the data could help the city identify officers who need more training or monitoring, the report said.

In response to the rising lawsuits, the city has reassigned some oft-sued officers and is beefing up its legal staff devoted to handling such suits.

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