The association between the complaints against an officer and the bad behaviour of an officer is complicated, but, yes, there is a relationship.
This study looked at the productivity of officers - e.g. how many traffic citations, arrests for felonies, arrests for misdemeanors, made per day, and compared it to the number of complaints. They found a statistically significant correlation, but it was a weak one.* So, being "hungry" to seek out crime and criminals (as one high ranking officer they interviewed put it) may lead to slightly more complaints.
They also found young and inexperienced officers were more likely to get complaints.
*) According to Table II in the article, the total number of complaints was found to be positively correlated at a p < 0.01 two-tailed significance level with the mean number of felony arrests (Pearson correlation coefficient r = 0.327), misdemeanor arrests (r = 0.239), traffic citations (r = 0.178) and offense reports (r = 0.179), and at a p < 0.05 level with the mean number of field interview reports (r = 0.128), juvenile status arrests (r = 0.152) and no-report incidents (r = 0.142).
This looked to see whether the number of allegations against officers was predictive of the number of lawsuits in which the officers were named and the amount the lawsuits paid out in damages
We find a strong relationship between allegations and
future civil rights litigation, especially for the very worst officers.
The worst 1 percent of officers, as measured by civilian allegations,
generate almost 5 times the number of payouts and over 4 times the
total damage payouts in civil rights litigation.
So, it seems the number of allegations against an officer is a reasonable measure, but not a perfect measure, that the department will one day be successfully sued because of the officer's behaviour.
I note, with frustration, that the original NYT article gave very little to compare the number "17" against. I could see nothing in the article that would tell the reader whether 17 was a very high number, that should have alerted the appropriate authorities that there was a problem, or actually a very low number compared to officers with similar experience, or something in between.