What should the city have to pay for improper activity by police?
Should taxpayers have to pay for improper activity by Syracuse police? Common councilors say the answer is no. YNN's Bill Carey says the council has okayed a resolution that asks the mayor to reconsider just what it will pay when employees cross the line.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- City lawmakers want the mayor to change policy when it comes to lawsuits filed against the city for the actions of police and other employees. The city currently covers any costs of damages against individuals named in the lawsuit, if they were in the process of performing their duties. But lawmakers say if police or other workers cross the line and act inappropriately, the city shouldn't bear the cost.
“Just last year, we bonded or authorized bonding for a couple of million dollars to settle claims against the police department for behavior which, quite frankly, I don't think should be considered in the course of one's duty,” said Syracuse Common Council Majority Leader Lance Denno.
The most recent settlement involved $35,000 paid to a city man who says he was roughed up during his arrest.
But it is not police brutality cases that have raised the concern of common councilors. Their attention is focused on sexual discrimination cases, which have accounted for much of that $2 million in settlement money approved this year. At least five female police officers have filed lawsuits in recent years naming the city and individual officers and commanders. The administration says the police chief has launched a zero-tolerance campaign on discrimination and mandated training for all officers on what is and is not proper activity.
“And that this behavior simply will not be tolerated. This ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘girls will be girls’ behavior will not be tolerated, heretofore,” said William Ryan, Mayoral Chief of Staff.
Councilors stressed that they are not launching a vendetta against police.
“It's a small percentage. And I think that the small percentage will stop and think before they cross those lines. And that's all it is. It's about being fair to not just the men and women in blue that are doing their job every day on a consistent basis, but for the community, as a whole,” Syracuse Common Councilor Helen Hudson said.
Denno said, “I think our police officers know what's appropriate behavior and what isn't. Certainly, when it comes to the case of punitive damages, this is not behavior which is a close call.”
The resolution approved by the council is not binding on the mayor, but the administration says it has and will look closely at the issues raised by lawmakers.