Police in New York City are pretty unhappy – yet again – with the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. They are incensed at at the case of Ruhim Ullah, who was shot in the leg when he came after police officers with a machete in 2010. Recently, he received a settlement from the city, in the amount of $5,000.
After the machete attack, the 24-year-old Ullah pled guilty to “menacing.” A short time later, he filed a $3,000,000 lawsuit, charging the police officers with wrongdoing.
Despite the presence of witnesses who attested that Ullah was armed with the 18-inch machete, the city agreed to settle the case for $5,000. Lawyers call such settlements “go away money.” NYC Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci explained to the New York Post that the city considered the settlement in its best interest.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s spokesman, Al O’Leary, is furious. He and other officers believe the city should be backing up its men and women in blue. Says O’Leary:
This is one of the many frivolous lawsuits that the city prefers to settle because it’s cheaper than defending it in court. It’s bad for our officers, who often don’t even know that there is a lawsuit.
After the settlement, even Ullah’s lawyer, Scott Cerbin, said, “This may have been a justified shooting.” He had argued in his suit that Ullah had dropped the blade being being shot.
The settlement is part of a rising trend. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has already paid out a record $732 million in legal costs for 2014 his first year in office. That includes a $98 million settlement last March in a class-action discrimination case brought by minority Fire Department applicants, $41 million last September for the notorious Central Park Five case, and $18 million to protestors who sued after being arrested at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
That is an increase of 40 percent over previous years. Carol Kellerman, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, commented on the settlement:
It’s a dramatic increase that’s worrisome because it indicates the new administration may be evaluating cases differently. You walk a fine line between cleaning up backlog and giving New Yorkers the message that you can sue and get a windfall.
The Ullah settlement certainly sends the wrong message to both criminals and police officers. And it appears the city is off to an expensive ride under de Blasio.