Which NYPD officers have most complaints against them?

Mona Chalabi
·2-min read

In New York, thousands of police discipline records that were kept secret are now public thanks to a change in the law. A statute known as 50-a meant the public could not know about complaints made against police officers or the outcomes of those complaints but, after the mass anti-racism protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in May, activists in New York successfully pushed for the law to be repealed.

Related: New York police officer faces charges over apparent chokehold

Soon after the law changed, the news organization ProPublica asked New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) to see this information. The result is a publicly available database of active-duty officers in New York City with at least one allegation against them that has been substantiated by the CCRB. Almost 4,000 officers are included in the database, representing 11% of the 36,000 officers in the NYPD.

Shown above are the 10 New York City police officers with the most allegations against them.

Often, there is a clear pattern in the allegations made against these officers. Take Daniel Sbarra for instance, a lieutenant in the Organized Crime Investigation Division. Of the 69 allegations against Sbarra where race and ethnicity data for the complainants was recorded, 58 of the civilians were Black and 11 were Hispanic. Most were men. The allegations include offensive language, abuse of authority and use of force.

Of the allegations made against Sbarra, 16 have been substantiated. The lieutenant who currently works in Brooklyn North has also been involved in at least 12 lawsuits that have cost the city over $1.5m in settlements.

Although it receives thousands of complaints each year, the CCRB is unable to substantiate most of them. Often, they have to rely on NYPD officers to cooperate in the investigations (for example, to hand over body-cam footage) and, despite a legal obligation to do so, the department often fails to comply.

Speaking to ProPublica, the former CCRB investigator Dan Bodah said: “I exonerated tons of cases that involved awful conduct that fell within the guidelines. It’s kind of haunting. The law and policy gives cops a lot of discretion.” Out of 3,000 allegations of misuse of force in 2018, just 73 were substantiated.

The earnings shown here, which are collected by the Legal Aid Society using New York City Open Data, are from 2018 and include salary as well as overtime and other benefits. It’s important to include those other earnings, since New York police officers often make a huge amount of money in overtime.

Take this year’s budget, for example. In 2020, the NYPD had a budget of $5,921,060,664 (that’s $5.9bn), but an additional $5.3bn was spent on overtime, pensions and fringe benefits. That means that the city spends almost $21,000 per minute on the NYPD.