Will Bratton Open Up Data on Traffic Crashes That Involve NYPD?

The senior who was seriously injured by the driver of a marked patrol car on the Upper West Side last weekend is the latest known victim of a crash involving a police driver, and the incident serves as a reminder that the NYPD keeps such data under wraps.

Felix Coss was one of several pedestrians killed in recent years by an NYPD driver. The department does not publicize statistics on crashes involving NYPD vehicles.

In recent years, operators of cruisers and other NYPD vehicles have killed pedestrians Felix Coss, Ryo Oyomada, Tamon Robinson, and Kok Hoe Tee, and police chases have preceded the deaths of Ariel Russo, Mary Celine Graham, Karen Schmeer, Pablo Pasarán, and, according to witnesses, Violetta Kryzak.

The exact number of pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicle occupants killed and injured in NYPD-involved crashes, however, is not known. Spurred by street safety advocates, the City Council succeeded in prying raw crash data from Ray Kelly’s department — but while NYPD’s monthly data reports enumerate incidents involving ambulances, fire trucks, buses, and taxis, they do not cite NYPD vehicle crashes.

Nor are the figures available elsewhere. NYPD was unresponsive when we asked for this information a year ago, and the most relevant data set we found was the annual comptroller’s report on claims against the city.

NYPD consistently ranks atop the list of city departments in claims and payouts, but the report does not itemize crash-related claims by agency. According to the FY 2012 report from former comptroller John Liu [PDF], “Tort claims against the NYPD include, but are not limited to, allegations of police misconduct, civil rights violations, and personal injury and/or property damage arising out of motor vehicle accidents involving police vehicles.” As in 2011, the 2012 report recommended “on-going training regarding police vehicle chases that balances both law enforcement goals and liability concerns.”

Crashes by DOT and DSNY employees were also cited by Liu as significant sources of claims against the city; NYPD does not enumerate these incidents in its data reports either.

“There should be no secrets in the NYPD,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in February. “We’re going to do more to open up the organization.” Police-involved crashes that lead to death, injury, and property damage should be one data set that Bratton makes public.