Promotion for NYPD cop who cost city $1.5m in settlements

Daniel Sbarra's unit was repeatedly charged with violence, racial profiling -- yet he was made lieutenant

By Natasha Lennard
Published May 20, 2013 4:54PM (EDT)

How does an NYPD officer make it to lieutenant? Here's one way, illustrated by Daniel Sbarra, who was promoted in 2011 by Commissioner Ray Kelly: Oversee a unit that, over 15 years, has cost the city $1.5 million in legal settlements, having been repeatedly charged with illegal searches, racial profiling, violence and intimidation.

A recent New York Daily News investigation traced Sbarra and his team's muddied record, noting how his 2011 promotion evidenced -- for police department critics -- "how the NYPD turns a blind eye to the mountains of litigation filed against it every year, and its nonchalant attitude toward police misconduct."

A Daily News investigation of Sbarra and his team of cops exposed repeated charges of illegal searches, unprovoked violence, racial profiling, racial slurs and intimidation that cost the city more than $1.5 million in settlements.

Sbarra is involved in at least 15 of the suits — others involving his team reference various John and Jane Doe officers, whose names typically don’t come to light when there are quick settlements. He’s been the target of five to 10 Internal Affairs investigations, the lieutenant acknowledged in a deposition. And he’s racked up a staggering 30 civilian complaints, among the most on the force.

City settlements involving the 37-year-old married father total nearly $500,000.

... “While his case is extensive, it’s also emblematic of the department’s lack of aggressive oversight of officers engaged in abusive conduct,” said Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project for the Urban Justice Center.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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