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Police misconduct lawsuits have cost Long Island taxpayers $165 million since 2000, report says

Keith Bush
Keith Sarbone
Newsday via AP
Keith Bush spent 33 years in prison before being exonerated in 2019. A settlement cost Suffolk County taxpayers $16 million.

An analysis by Newsday calculates that police misconduct claims have cost Long Island taxpayers $165 million over the last 20 years. The investigationlooked at lawsuits filed since 2000 against Long Island’s two large county police departments and the scores of smaller departments on the island.

According to the report, the amount municipalities paid out increased sharply in the last ten years. Between 2000 and 2010, departments paid $21 million in judgments. That number increased to $144 million between 2011 and 2013.

A major driver to the costs were wrongful convictions where multiple people spent years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called the $165 million in payments a “corruption tax.” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman called the lawsuits “anomalies” and was surprised by the high cost. Long Island’s police unions have not responded to the analysis.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.