The city’s $500,000 payment is the latest in a series of settlements with Schenectady police

SCHENECTADY — The city has officially settled a lawsuit with a couple who sued the city and more than a dozen police department members alleging excessive force and false arrest during a 2014 confrontation.

City council was expected to approve the $500,000 settlement with Ronald and Denise Sheridan on Monday night, with each receiving $250,000.

Court documents allege that at least 19 police officers – including the future head of the department – showed up at the couple’s Carrie Street residence looking for a suspect. During the meeting, the couple claims to have been “physically manipulated” by agents.

The payment is the latest in a series of recent settlements against the city and the police department that have cost taxpayers nearly $2 million over the past two and a half years.

The first was a $1.38 million wrongful death settlement reached in August 2019 with the widow of Andrew Kearse, a Bronx man who died of a heart attack in police custody in 2017 despite his pleas for assistance. medical.

In August 2020, the city paid $250,000 to a woman who was injured after claiming that a pair of city police officers punched her in the body during her arrest, punched her in the face and kicked her. thrown against a wall at police headquarters, knocking her unconscious.

Two months later, the city reached a $225,000 settlement with a suspect who was attacked by a police dog while arrested last spring in a 2019 drug arrest.

At least one other high-profile case against the city will go to trial in federal court in May.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the widow of Joshua Scism alleges the Mount Pleasant man was fatally shot in the back of the head by one or both plainclothes vice squad investigators who were following him at the time that he was heading to his home in 2016. (Police say Scism pulled a gun from his belt and pointed it at them.)

A federal appeals judge allowed the case to go to trial last September, but dismissed complaints against an investigator, citing that he was entitled to qualified immunity. The other is expected to pursue this argument in May.

“Outside city counsel is providing a vigorous defense of the allegations,” City Attorney Andrew Koldin said Monday.

Police Chief Eric Clifford said, in general terms, each case is independent.

“I have full confidence that the attorneys representing the city and the officers do so in the best interests of both,” Clifford said.

Often the decision to settle a case comes down to a decision made by the city’s insurer, he said.

“That said, we have worked tirelessly to increase training within the department and focus on reducing risk to officers and the community while fighting crime and protecting the public.”

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said he was unhappy with the ongoing costs to the city.

“I don’t like seeing these payments,” McCarthy said.

But, he added: “It has been a long time. Some of the settlements have only just been reached due to the nature of the speed (of litigation) that moves through the system. »

Insurance companies, he said, have shielded the city from most financial liabilities, he said.

The deductible for the Sheridans’ claim, which was under the city’s former insurer, is $75,000, according to Koldin.

City Council President Marion Porterfield echoed McCarthy.

“These are older claims,” ​​Porterfield said. “The payments are taking place, but the incidents happened some time ago.”

The department is not far from its past scandals, including an FBI investigation into the department in the late 1990s that ended with four police officers serving time in prison for breaking the law to protect informants. or supplying them with drugs.

This investigation also uncovered widespread civil rights abuses by city police.

Since then, the department has received state accreditation, a designation by which police leaders strengthen internal standards, training, and public accountability. The city is also in the midst of new reforms following the conclusion of a state-mandated directive finalized last spring.

Sheridan, the co-plaintiff in Monday’s settlement, works as a laborer for the City Services Bureau, according to public records, and his attorney said he and Denise would leave town after receiving the settlement money.

As part of the settlement, the city did not admit liability for the staff or any of its agents, an attorney for the couple said.