CCRB Case Profiles
The following case profiles are brief summaries
of actual cases investigated or mediated by the CCRB. These
summaries give the public a better understanding of the types
of cases the CCRB handles.
CCRB Substantiated Case Profile: Department Declines to Prosecute
At approximately 11:30 PM on a Friday night two married couples in their mid-20s were walking in downtown Manhattan after sharing a few drinks at local bars. A plainclothes NYPD lieutenant drove his unmarked car close by the group while turning a corner. One husband, who did not realize he was dealing with a police officer, became angry at the lieutenant’s driving. He approached the open passenger side window and raised his middle finger, saying, “F**k you, why don’t you watch where you’re going?” Upon noticing the lieutenant’s police shield, he rapidly walked away.
The lieutenant called for backup, double-parked the car, and exited. The lieutenant then walked up to the man and allegedly pushed him in the chest, causing him to bump into the glass front window of a restaurant and attracting the attention of the restaurant patrons. The other three friends stood by and protested the lieutenant’s behavior. In response, the lieutenant allegedly said, “Shut the f**k up,” turned toward the other husband and allegedly punched him in the face. Backup arrived, and the lieutenant arrested both men, charging the man he had punched with obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest, and the man who had initially raised his middle finger with menacing and disorderly conduct. Meanwhile, the men’s wives noticed that restaurant patrons had observed the incident, and obtained contact information from two witnesses.
The man who initially raised his middle finger ultimately pled guilty to disorderly conduct and received a conditional discharge; the man who was punched pled not guilty and was acquitted of all charges after trial.
The Board determined that the witness statements and the victim’s and lieutenant’s account of the alleged push against the restaurant window left unresolved issues of fact and accordingly unsubstantiated this allegation. The Board also determined that a preponderance of the evidence showed that the lieutenant used excessive force when he punched the second man and used discourteous language during the interaction. Therefore, the Board substantiated these two allegations. The NYPD declined to prosecute these substantiated allegations.
CCRB Substantiated Case Profile: Charges and Specifications
Shortly after 6:00 PM on a winter evening, three officers working in a plainclothes unit in a Queens precinct received a radio report of a man threatening people with a firearm, described as a short Hispanic male with a goatee and a black jacket and red pullover sweatshirt. At approximately 6:30 PM, the officers observed a 5’10” white male with a goatee and a red jacket exiting a parked vehicle.
The officers stopped the man at gunpoint, frisked him and searched his vehicle, revealing metal ball bearings in a compartment on the driver’s side door and a can of pepper spray (which is illegal in New York State) in the center console. One of the officers stated, at this point, that the ball-bearings could be used as ammunition in a barrel-loaded weapon such as a musket, and the man was handcuffed. An officer then searched the man’s pockets and found a pipe with marijuana residue.
After finding the marijuana pipe, the officers told the man that they would release him if he provided them with information about narcotics activity in the area – otherwise, he would spend the weekend in jail. The officers drove the man around for several minutes, repeating their offer, until the man agreed. They brought him to his apartment one block away, where the man’s landlord let the officers in. At the officers’ request, the man made several phone calls in an attempt to set up a drug deal, all while the officers searched his apartment. When the man was unable to set up a drug deal, the officers released him and left, refusing to give names or badge numbers as they did so.
The CCRB determined that, because the man sufficiently resembled the description given by the 911 caller, and the officers observed the man close to the time and place of the original report of a crime, the officers had reasonable suspicion and were justified in stopping and frisking him. However, the agency determined that the officers’ subsequent actions were improper. The officers claimed that they searched the vehicle after noticing the metal ball bearings, which could be ammunition for a front-loaded musket-style gun, in plain view within the car. Ball bearings, however, have many innocuous and lawful uses, and would not give the officers the probable cause necessary to search the car. In addition, the officers’ accounts of other events were contradicted by evidence. The officers denied ever finding a pepper-spray canister or marijuana pipe in the man’s possession – yet the man made self-incriminating admissions that he possessed both. The officers claimed that they drove the man to his apartment at his suggestion, so that he could retrieve his ID – yet they acknowledged that they were not required to obtain his ID before releasing him from the stop. In addition, although the officers claimed not to enter the man’s apartment and ask him to set up a drug deal, the man’s landlord confirmed to the CCRB that the officers had entered the apartment, while phone records confirmed that the man called several individuals while being detained by the officers as he had claimed.
The CCRB substantiated allegations that the officers improperly detained the man while searching his pockets, car and apartment and forcing him to attempt to arrange a drug deal, and failed to provide their name and shield number when requested to do so, as required by NYPD regulation. The NYPD’s Department Advocate’s Office brought disciplinary charges against the officers, and in 2008 all three officers pled guilty and each forfeited eight vacation days.
CCRB Substantiated Case Profile: Command Discipline "A"
At 4:00 PM on a fall afternoon, three uniformed police officers assigned to patrol a Manhattan precinct pulled over a Hispanic female in her mid-30s. The officers frisked the woman and her co-passenger, a male friend, at gunpoint and searched through the woman’s vehicle, explaining that they suspected she was driving a vehicle stolen from an impound lot. Six days earlier, the woman had retrieved her car from an impound lot. The officers ignored the receipt from the impound lot when the woman presented it. After a roughly ten-minute wait, a sergeant arrived on the scene and spoke to the officers, at which point the woman was released with no summonses or additional police action taken. The woman filed a complaint with the CCRB the next day.
In their CCRB interviews, the two officers who initiated the stop, frisked the woman and searched the vehicle acknowledged that they suspected the vehicle was stolen, based upon results from a license plate check on the officers’ Mobile Digital Terminal (MDT) computer in their car. Because the digital records had not yet been updated, the MDT screen had shown that the woman’s car should have been in an impound lot, rather than out on the street. However, the CCRB obtained a copy of the original readout from the MDT, which said, “The following has been reported as an impounded vehicle. It should not be treated as a stolen vehicle hit. No further action should be taken based solely upon this impounded response.” In addition, although both officers claimed that the car had also committed a traffic law violation, providing a possible additional justification for the stop, their testimony was contradicted by the third officer, the woman, and the sergeant who responded to the scene, none of whom recalled any mention of a traffic law violation.
The CCRB found that the two officers had acted improperly in stopping and frisking the woman and her co-passenger and searching her car, based upon a negligent reading of the MDT screen. The NYPD imposed a Command Discipline “A” on both officers.
CCRB Exonerated Case Profile
Shortly after 11:15 AM on a weekday morning in the fall of 2008, several officers arrived at a Brooklyn apartment complex in response to a 911 call of a domestic assault. The female 911 caller described the perpetrator as a 6’0” black male with a missing tooth, who was wearing a black shirt with writing on it. At about the same time, a different man was paying a visit to his mother-in-law in an apartment in the same building, near the reported dispute. The man, a 6’1” black male with a severely chipped tooth, was wearing a grey shirt with writing on it. As he left his mother-in-law’s apartment, he walked towards the elevator and the arriving officers, who stopped him. Upon seeing that one of his teeth appeared to be missing or chipped, one of the officers handcuffed the man. A woman then emerged from a nearby apartment and informed the officers they had the wrong person. The man was released and contacted the CCRB later that day. The man filed a complaint based on his belief that the officers would have falsely arrested him without the intervention of the woman in the apartment.
Because the man closely resembled the description given by the 911 caller, and because he was in the vicinity of the reported dispute within minutes of receipt of the 911 call, the CCRB determined that the officer had reasonable suspicion to detain him in order to investigate the 911 call. In addition, the officers released the man as soon as they verified that he was not the suspect. The allegation was closed as exonerated.
CCRB Truncated Case Profile
In the spring of 2008, a woman filed a complaint with the CCRB regarding her arrest on charges of obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct, driving without a license, failure to produce her insurance card, and driving without a seatbelt. The woman stated that, as she was being escorted to the hospital in police custody due to low blood sugar levels, a police officer cursed at her, using the phrase, “Get the f*** in the car,” and punched her when she failed to comply.
The woman cancelled her first scheduled interview appointment, and then missed two subsequent appointments without calling the CCRB in advance to cancel. Because the woman failed to appear for two scheduled appointments, the investigator recommended that the case be closed as “complainant uncooperative,” and the Board agreed. In fact, during the course of corresponding with the woman, the investigator had also made five phone calls to the woman’s confirmed phone number, and sent her two letters, satisfying a separate agency requirement for truncating a case as well. The woman never contacted the CCRB to reopen her case.
CCRB Unsubstantiated Case Profile
In the summer of 2008, a Queens man was driving quickly in order to get home from work, when a uniformed police officer doing routine patrol stepped into the street, motioned for the man to pull over, and issued him a summons for speeding. The officer showed the man the display from his radar gun, which showed that the man had been driving 57 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. Upset at receiving the summons, the man said, “Is this what you do all day long?” According to the man, who subsequently filed a complaint with the CCRB, the officer responded by saying, “F*** you.” Both men argued further, and the officer allegedly concluded the exchange by saying, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll be laughing at you in court.”
The CCRB interviewed the man, and the police officer, who denied ever cursing at the man. Both the officer and man provided consistent, plausible statements to the CCRB. There were no witnesses: the officer was assigned to work alone, the man was driving alone, and no bystanders stopped to observe the incident. With no additional evidence, the CCRB had no basis to credit the testimony of either party over the other, and the CCRB closed the allegation that the officer spoke discourteously as unsubstantiated.
Officers Lawfully Entered Apartment Pursuant to a Family Court Order
On March 2, 2006, a Family Court judge signed an order permitting a man who had been evicted from his ex-wife’s Brooklyn apartment to return to the apartment between the hours of noon and 4:00 p.m. on March 4, 2006, accompanied by the police, to retrieve specified personal belongings. The man went to the domestic violence unit of the local Housing Bureau police service area (PSA) with the court order, and on March 4, 2006, at 2:00 p.m., two uniformed officers from the PSA escorted the man to the apartment, knocked on the door, and identified themselves as police officers.
The ex-wife’s 13-year-old son answered the door, and initially told the officers that his mother was not at home. Seeing the teenager’s mother in the background, the officers moved past the son and went inside the apartment with the ex-husband without receiving permission from the son or his mother to enter. The officers showed the ex-wife the court order, followed the man through the apartment, and observed him collecting the belongings, which were listed on a piece of paper affixed to the order. The ex-wife became extremely angry and loudly cursed at the officers and her ex-husband, disputing the right of her ex-husband to take specific items on the list. She finally said, “Well, listen, I don’t want you to say I’m not being cooperative so I’m going to help you move this along,” and started throwing her ex-husband’s possessions, including a VCR, into the hallway, damaging some of them in the process. The officers threatened to arrest the woman if she continued throwing the property into the hallway.
The ex-husband picked up the rest of his belongings and the officers escorted him out of the apartment without further incident. Two days later the woman walked into the PSA and filed a complaint because she felt that the officers improperly entered her apartment and were “too aggressive.”
The CCRB obtained a copy of the Family Court order, and interviewed the woman, her son, her ex-husband, and the two officers, all of whom agreed upon the material facts. Based upon clearly-established law, on November 22, 2006, the board found that the court order authorized the officers to enter the apartment without the permission of its occupants and enabled the ex-husband to retrieve his belongings; accordingly, the board exonerated the officers’ actions. The board also concluded that the officers had probable cause to believe that the woman was committing a crime (criminal mischief in the fourth degree or obstructing governmental administration) when she threw the husband’s property into the hallway, damaging some of the items. The board therefore exonerated the officers’ decision to threaten her with arrest if she persisted.
Father’s Complaint that Officer Cursed at His Teenage Son Led to Broad Discussion of the Son’s Acquaintances Dangerous Behavior
On January 20, 2006, at approximately 2:50 p.m., a 15 year-old teenager, on his way home from school, was waiting for a C train with his friends on a B/C subway platform in Manhattan. A 15-year veteran police officer, consistently assigned to patrol the station at the end of the school day, approached and instructed the teenager and his friends to get on the next train. The teenager and his friends walked away, and the officer allegedly called back the teen and asked, “Do you want to go to the stationhouse?” The teenager responded, “Why? I didn’t do anything wrong.” According to the teenager, the officer then said, “Stop the bullshit. You better get on the next fucking train, whether it’s a B or a C.” As he spoke with the officer, the teen read the officer’s nameplate and memorized her name.
The teenager went home and told his father about the encounter. Upset at the officer’s use of obscenities, the next day the father walked with his son to the local transit district police station and filed a complaint, which the department referred to the CCRB. On January 25, 2006, the CCRB investigator explained the investigation and mediation processes to the father, who subsequently spoke with his son and on February 6, 2006, agreed to mediate the complaint. The father told the investigator that he chose mediation because he wanted to tell the officer that it was not appropriate for her to speak obscenely and unprofessionally to members of the public. On February 22, 2006, a CCRB mediation coordinator spoke with the son to ensure that he understood the mediation process, and on April 21, 2006, the officer agreed to mediate.
The mediation session occurred in a private room at the CCRB on May 10, 2006. Two mediators were present to facilitate the conversation among the officer, the father, and the son. As soon as the son walked into the room, the officer expressed surprise that this teenager, rather than one of his friends, had filed a complaint, saying “You filed a complaint? I didn’t think it would be you!”
The father began the mediation session by describing his dismay that the officer cursed at his son. When given a chance to relate her perspective, the officer reiterated that she was surprised that the son had filed the complaint, because she had never had a problem with the son, only with a friend of his, who according to the officer, was “bad news.” The officer never recalled speaking with the son, only arguing with his friend. The officer’s repeated assertion that the son was a “nice kid” who had never caused any problems changed the dynamic of the mediation; it focused the discussion away from the alleged obscenity toward a broader conversation of the son’s problematic friend and, more generally, students’ behavior on the subway platform. The officer said that a group of students, with whom the son’s friend associated, constantly loitered and engaged in horseplay on the subway platform. She explained that the subway platform in question was narrow and became extremely crowded as students left school, creating dangerous conditions that could cause a student to fall on the tracks. She said it was her job to order students to get onto the trains rather than linger in dangerous disorderly groups.
When asked by the officer, the son stated that the teenager to whom she was referring was not really his friend; the son informed his father and the officer that he and the other student simply attended the same school and had mutual friends. He explained that on January 20, 2006, he had encountered the other student on the platform and stopped to say hello. The officer urged the son to avoid the company of the other student whom she portrayed as a “bad influence.”
After listening to the exchange between the officer and his son, the father expressed his agreement with the officer that the real issue was the son’s decision to associate with troublemakers. As the mediation session concluded, the father promised the officer that the son would change his behavior, and thanked the officer. Both parties signed a resolution agreement and the CCRB closed the case as mediated.
911 Recording Proved that Officers Professionally Handled Chaotic Domestic Dispute
At approximately 9:30 p.m. on June 27, 2005, a married couple began arguing loudly inside their apartment, where they lived with their 11 year-old son. Neighbors called 911 regarding the noise, and the dispatcher assigned two officers on patrol in a precinct sector car to respond to what the dispatcher characterized as a domestic dispute. When the husband opened the door, one of the officers placed his foot inside to prevent him from closing it, and asked to enter the apartment to make sure everyone inside was safe. The husband, mistakenly believing that the officers were not allowed to enter his apartment under any circumstances without a warrant, told the officers get out of the apartment. His wife came to the door and called 911 to request that the officers be ordered to leave.
One of the officers radioed for backup. Due to the husband’s shouting, officers listening to the radio thought that the two officers at the apartment were at risk. As a result, a sergeant responded to the apartment along with roughly seven other officers. The husband argued with the officers, who calmly attempted to convince him to allow them inside. Eventually, the husband walked further inside the apartment, and the sergeant and other officers followed him. As the husband became increasingly agitated and continued yelling, the sergeant decided to arrest him for disorderly conduct, and officers handcuffed him. A female officer took the 11 year-old boy by the arm and led him aside to prevent him from interfering with his father’s arrest. As officers led the husband out of the apartment, officers held his wife by the arms and pushed her back to prevent her from following him. The sergeant escorted the husband down the stairs en route to the precinct.
The husband and wife subsequently filed a complaint claiming that officers improperly entered their home, made comments to the wife based upon her race, and repeatedly pushed the husband into the stairwell’s stucco wall, scraping his shoulder and head. The husband, whom police eventually took to the hospital, refused medical treatment.
The CCRB investigator interviewed the husband and wife and their son, and seven officers who responded to the incident, including the sergeant, who said that the husband rammed into the stairwell wall himself. Most importantly, the CCRB investigator obtained a recording of the wife’s seven-minute 911 call, which revealed that the situation confronting the officers inside the apartment was a chaotic one. The husband and wife refused to cooperate with the officers and the husband, in particular, yelled abusive, racist obscenities at the officers. The recording also disproved some of the husband’s and wife’s allegations. For instance, although the husband admitted yelling at the officers, he told the CCRB that he only threatened them if they hurt his wife. The recording, however, proved that he screamed, “It takes a spic to come into my apartment, the white cop isn’t disrespecting me…. You’re fucking coming into my apartment … I’ll fuck your ass up!” Similarly, the wife claimed that while the officers were inside the apartment, some officers referred to her as “bitch” and “nigger,” and, when she protested that she was Native American, an officer replied, “That’s why Custer shot the Indians.” Yet the recording contains no contemporaneous complaint of this nature and fails to capture any officer using offensive language, though it does show that an officer repeatedly told the wife, “Relax … just calm down.”
Based upon clearly-established legal precedent that permits officers to enter residences without permission or a warrant when responding to domestic disputes and other types of emergencies, on August 9, 2006, the board found that the officers’ entry into the apartment was justified. Based upon the 911 recording, which discredited the husband and wife, the board determined that no officer made racist comments, that the sergeant did not push the husband into the stairwell wall, and that the minimal force used to restrain the wife was appropriate.
Officer Used Offensive Racial Epithet Against a 17 Year-old Student Who Littered
After school let out at approximately 2:00 pm. on March 31, 2005, a 17 year-old black woman and a few of her friends, all of whom were fellow students and also black, stood on Francis Lewis Boulevard in Queens waiting for a bus to go home from school. The young woman, who was eating chicken she had picked up from a store near the school, jokingly threw a chicken bone at one of her friends; the piece of chicken landed on the ground.
Three plain-clothed, precinct anti-crime officers were assigned to patrol the area surrounding the school from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in order to disperse crowds that form at the end of the school day. The three were using an unmarked car and at least one of them saw the woman throw the piece of chicken on the ground. The officers drove up to the girl, and the white male driver called her over; he told her he was writing her a $100 summons for littering. The woman expressed shock that she was receiving a summons just for dropping a chicken bone, questioned the officer’s actions, and pleaded with the officer not to issue her a summons. The white male officer in the front passenger’s seat responded by saying, “Just for dropping a chicken wing. See, that’s how y’all think. Yeah, y’all niggas better realize there’s a new fucking sheriff in town and I’m not playing any games.” The Hispanic female officer sitting in the back seat began laughing.
The girl became upset, and, as the driver wrote the summons, the woman asked all three officers for their badge numbers. The officer sitting in the passenger’s seat explained that the driver’s identifying information would be on the summons, but hid his own badge as did the officer in the backseat. Neither the officer in the front passenger seat nor the female officer in the backseat provided any identifying information to the woman. The woman continued to state that she believed the summons was unfair, and the officer sitting in the passenger’s seat at one point told her, “There aren’t as many niggers here as there were yesterday.… I guess y’all realize the new sheriff won’t take no shit.” The driver handed the woman her summons, and continued to watch her as she walked to the next bus stop.
The CCRB investigator was able to identify the officers through the summons and the unmarked vehicle’s license plate number that the young woman had recorded. The investigator interviewed the woman and two of her friends, along with the three officers. The officers provided contradictory and unreliable statements. For example, the female officer stated that the young woman had told her, “You have no right to laugh,” but denied that she had been laughing. The officers also provided inconsistent accounts of when each of them was present in the vehicle at which time. The driver claimed, for instance, that the female officer and the front passenger never interacted with the woman when he initially approached her because they were dealing with the crowd and preparing stop and frisk reports. However, the female officer and the officer in the front passenger seat did not in fact prepare any stop and frisk reports.
Crediting the account of the three civilians, who had no motive to fabricate what happened, on October 3, 2005, a three-member panel of the board determined that the officer in the front passenger seat made disparaging and offensive comments to the students based upon their race and that this officer and the female officer did not provide their shield numbers upon request as required by the NYPD Patrol Guide.
That same month, in October of 2005, the police department ordered the female officer to receive instructions, or retraining, regarding the departmental guidelines relating to an officer’s obligation to provide her name and shield number when requested to do so. In January of 2006, the officer in the front passenger seat pleaded guilty to using offensive language and forfeited 17 vacation days.
Officers Unlawfully Stopped, Frisked, Searched and Issued Disorderly Conduct Summons to Man Who Was Walking Home
After watching a movie at a friend’s apartment, a 31 year-old black man, employed in the television industry, left to walk home. It was 1:15 a.m. on Saturday, December 11, 2004, and although the friends lived in the same building in Brooklyn, their apartments were located in different sections with separate street-level entrances.
The man, 6’ 3” tall and approximately 225 pounds, had just walked out of the building when an unmarked, black, four-door sedan pulled up beside him. The car contained four plain-clothed officers from the local precinct’s Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit (“SNEU”). The officer in the front passenger’s seat called out, “Hey big man, can I talk to you?” When the man, who saw no one else on the street, continued walking, the officer in the front passenger’s seat left the vehicle, grabbed the man’s jacket, and said, “We want to search you, we think you have a gun.” Only then did the man realize he was speaking with a police officer. The man angrily told the officer he did not have a gun, and that the officer did not have permission to search him. At this point, the other three officers got out and surrounded the man. The officer who had grabbed the man’s jacket frisked him and reached into his pockets and examined all of their contents.
The officers asked the man to produce identification, and when he explained that he was not carrying ID they told him he would be arrested for trespassing. The man told the officers they couldn’t arrest him for trespassing because he lived in the building. The man further challenged the officers, asking them, “Where is my so-called gun?” A second officer drew his gun, held it up above the man’s hand pointing it towards the ground and said, “Here’s your gun.” Continuing to question the officers for arresting him for trespass, the man made a cell phone call to his friend, who came outside. She told the officers that the man lived in the building, and stayed to observe the rest of the encounter. The officers handcuffed the man, who resisted passively by sitting on the sidewalk; he continued to tell the officers that he had done nothing wrong and insisted they could not arrest him for trespassing. The officers lifted him up, walked him to the police car, and took him to the precinct. There, the officer who had drawn his gun issued the man a summons for disorderly conduct. The man asked the officer for his name, and the officer replied that the name was on the summons. Because the name was illegible, the man spoke to a sergeant, who took the summons and wrote the officer’s name on it. The summons was later dismissed in court.
The CCRB interviewed the man, his friend, and a resident of the building who did not know the two friends, but saw what happened from her window and responded to a letter the investigator posted in the building lobby. The investigator also interviewed all four SNEU officers and the sergeant who had provided the officer’s name to the man at the precinct. The stop and frisk report the summonsing officer completed on the date of the incident indicated that the officers suspected the man of trespass and burglary and that the man made “furtive movements.” Upon being interviewed, all four officers admitted to being confused by the man emerging from a building entrance about which they were unaware and asserted that they suspected the man of planning to rob a passing Chinese deliveryman, whom the man appeared to be following. However, the officers provided contradictory accounts of the supposed Chinese deliveryman’s movements, and a search of seven Chinese restaurants located within one mile of the building showed that none were open past 1:00 a.m. on Saturdays.
Crediting the man’s account, which was corroborated by his friend and an independent witness, on July 13, 2005, the board found one officer guilty of misconduct for stopping, frisking, and searching the man without adequate legal justification. The board also determined that the second officer improperly drew his gun, failed to provide his name as required by the department’s Patrol Guide, and lacked probable cause to issue the disorderly conduct summons, a summons motivated by the man’s challenging the officers’ actions. In February of 2006, the police department ordered both officers to receive instructions, or retraining, regarding their misconduct.
Detective Struck Man in the Back of Head with a Gun When Man Questioned the Detective
During the evening of October 17, 2003, detectives from the Organized Crime Control Bureau Firearm Investigations Unit gave $800 to a confidential informant scheduled to buy a gun from two suspects inside a building in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. After 30 minutes, the detectives lost touch with the informant, with whom they had been communicating by cell phone. Although it turned out that the informant’s cell phone battery went dead, the detectives thought that the informant might be in danger and began looking for him. At the same time, near the building where the gun deal was supposed to take place, three friends gathered around a car occupied by a fourth man. The friends were talking and discussing a silver hand-held camcorder one of the men was holding.
As two detectives drove down the street towards the target building, they saw the men around the car and spotted what they believed was a gun (the camcorder); they suspected that the informant might be inside the car. Wearing plainclothes, the detectives left their unmarked car and ordered at gunpoint the three men to put their hands on top of the fourth man’s car. One of the men, a 27 year-old city worker, leaned over the car with his head on the windshield. The detective frisking him had not holstered his gun. Lifting his head, the man asked the detective, “What did we do?” The detective responded by hitting the man in the back of the head with his gun, opening a laceration that bled down onto the man’s shirt.
Once the detectives located the informant and determined that the men had no weapons, they told the uninjured men to leave and escorted the injured man into the front passenger seat of their unmarked car. Transported to the 70th Precinct where he was handcuffed and arrested, the man was quickly taken by ambulance to Kings County Hospital and received two sutures to close the three centimeter laceration. Based upon the subject detective’s account of the incident, police originally charged the man with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at 10:35 p.m., and at 12:10 a.m. on October 18, added the charge of assault in the second degree. The Office of the Kings County District Attorney formally charged the man with obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest. All charges were eventually dropped.
On November 9, 2004, the CCRB found that the detective used excessive force in striking the man with his firearm, and had improperly arrested the man to justify the man’s injury. The New York City Police Department filed disciplinary charges against the detective and, following an administrative hearing found the detective guilty of using excessive force. The department also determined that the detective communicated false information to a public servant about the case and caused incorrect charges to be filed against the man. (Police department and court records falsely indicated that the man had turned around and pushed the detective.) As a result, the detective forfeited 30 vacation days in April 2006.
CCRB Investigation: Officers
Ruptured Spleen of Man Whom They Punched and Kicked
As the Man Swallowed Drugs
From an observation post to which he was assigned, on
May 7, 2003, an officer observed a drug addict with
an extensive criminal history buy cocaine. The officer
radioed a description of the man to his back-up team.
A sergeant and a patrol officer, from the Manhattan's
23rd Precinct Tracer Unit, subsequently approached the
man on Third Avenue near East 115th Street; the man
tossed the two "dime bags" of cocaine into
his mouth. According to the man, in order to stop him
from swallowing the drugs, the patrol officer grabbed
his throat, choking him. The patrol officer and his
sergeant, who were wearing plain clothes, tackled the
man, handcuffed him, and repeatedly punched and kicked
him in the torso. The man succeeded in swallowing the
drugs and opened his mouth to show the officers that
they were gone.
The officers arrested the man and took him to the 23rd
Precinct, where he immediately complained of an injury.
He was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with muscle
strain. Once he was transported back to the precinct,
the patrol officer issued him a summons for disorderly
conduct, and released him.
Two days later, the man returned to the same hospital
complaining of pain to his left rib cage area. X-rays
indicated a possibility of a non-displaced fracture
of one of his ribs. He left the hospital with a diagnosis
of chest wall pain and some ibuprofen. Five days later
the man called 911 due to ongoing stomach pain and was
taken to a different hospital. The second hospital determined
that the man's spleen was severely shattered. A surgeon
performed an operation to remove the man's spleen. The
hospital records also revealed that the man had a non-displaced
fracture of two ribs and a likely fracture of a third.
The patrol officer and the sergeant told the CCRB investigator
that they had never choked, hit or kicked the man, and
that his injury must have been a result of his falling
on the ground. However, the CCRB obtained an expert
medical opinion from the Office of the Chief Medical
Examiner for the City of New York. An associate medical
examiner, an expert in forensic pathology, examined
the CCRB's investigative file and the man's medical
records. The doctor explained that the man's injury
was likely caused by the May 7, 2003 incident because
there is a normal delay period before a spleen rupture
becomes clinically manifest. She also stated that the
injury was not consistent with a fall onto a flat surface
such as a sidewalk, but could only have been caused
by a focal blow to the man's spleen by some type of
hard protruding object.
Although the patrol officer had resigned by the time
the CCRB closed its investigation on July 14, 2004,
(thereby divesting the board of jurisdiction over him),
the board concluded that the sergeant used excessive
force against the man. Adhering to the board's disciplinary
recommendation, the department filed charges against
the sergeant and on April 11, 2005, an assistant deputy
commissioner of trials conducted a hearing at which
the man, the associate medical examiner, and the sergeant
testified. The judge also admitted into evidence the
CCRB interview of the patrol officer. At the time of
the hearing, the man's civil lawsuit, seeking $2 million
in damages, against the New York City Police Department
was still pending.
In August 2005, the sergeant was found guilty of using
excessive force and forfeited ten vacation days.
CCRB Investigation: Without Legal
Justification Officer Arrested Man who Accidentally
Bumped into him on the Street
On February 7, 2004, a 150-pound, 5' 3" tall man
was walking on 37th Avenue towards Roosevelt Avenue
in Queens, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare. He stepped
to the side to avoid a woman waiting for a bus, and
as a result bumped another man, who had just left a
pizza parlor and was walking across the sidewalk to
the curb. The first man immediately said, "Excuse
me." Noticing the other man, who was 6'2"
and weighed approximately 250 pounds, was a uniformed
police officer, the first man said again, "Excuse
me." The officer responded, "Watch where the
fuck you're going." Upset at the officer's lack
of courtesy, the man told the officer that the officer
should treat him with respect. The officer called the
man a "jackass," handcuffed him, and placed
him in the backseat of his parked patrol car, in which
his partner was sitting. The man claimed that he remained
calm and did not resist arrest, even though he did not
know why he had been arrested. At the precinct, the
officer issued the man a summons charging him with disorderly
conduct, and the officer told him, "You're lucky
I didn't beat the shit out of you." A court dismissed
the disorderly conduct summons on April 15.
CCRB investigators canvassed the area and located an
employee of the pizza parlor in front of which the incident
took place. The employee stated that he did not hear
what the officer and the civilian said to each other,
but observed both of their demeanors. He told the investigators
that the civilian was calm and that the officer, who
was "grossly upset," yelled at the civilian
before arresting him. The officer's partner, told the
assigned investigator that while he did not hear what
either the civilian or the officer said, both men were
calm, the civilian was "quiet," and the encounter
resembled that of an ordinary conversation.
When the subject officer was interviewed, however, he
described the incident quite differently. He stated
that the civilian, after bumping him, said, "Excuse
me," as the officer described, "in an obnoxious
manner." In return, the officer also said, "Excuse
me." According to the officer, the civilian proceeded
to say either "Get the fuck out or my way"
or "What is the matter with you?" As the officer
tried to calm the civilian down, the civilian continued
to curse and a crowd began to gather. The officer justified
arresting the man for disorderly conduct because the
man was "angry, saying profanities." The officer
handcuffed the man without assistance and took him to
the precinct to check whether the man had any outstanding
warrants, after which the officer released him.
Crediting the account of the civilian, whose testimony
was corroborated by the pizza parlor employee and the
subject officer's partner, on December 14, 2004, the
board panel found that the officer spoke rudely to the
civilian, unlawfully arrested him, and issued him a
summons without probable cause and in bad faith. The
police department filed and served disciplinary charges
against the officer; an assistant deputy commissioner
for trials conducted a hearing on June 29, 2005. The
administrative law judge agreed with the CCRB that the
officer had committed misconduct and recommended that
the officer forfeit ten vacation days, a recommendation
that the police commissioner approved in August 2005.
CCRB Investigation: Officers
Used a Reasonable Amount of Force to Restrain Emotionally
On February 17, 2004, a mother had an argument with
her 19 year-old son about smoking marijuana in their
apartment in the Bronx. The man left the apartment,
went to a park across the street, and slashed his wrists
with a folding switchblade. After about an hour, the
son returned on his own accord; his mother refused to
let him in the apartment but called 911, since the man's
slashed wrists were bleeding. The 911 operator dispatched
When paramedics arrived on the second floor, the man
was sitting in front of the door to the apartment, bleeding.
As they approached him, his mother came out of the apartment
and told the paramedics that she refused to let her
son inside the apartment because he had stopped taking
his medication, was acting violently, and had been cutting
his arms with a knife. The paramedics followed procedure
when dealing with people who may be armed and called
for police assistance.
One paramedic met the officers downstairs when they
arrived and informed them that the man had a knife.
The officers went upstairs and asked the man to stand
up so that he could be frisked for weapons. The man
did not respond, so one of the officers tried to make
the man stand up by pulling on his left arm. The man
then began swinging at the officers, and both the officers
and the paramedics tried to control him. One of the
paramedics spotted a partially open folding knife in
the man's right hand and yelled, "Knife! He's got
The officers shouted at the man to drop his knife; he
continued to swing at the officers and the paramedics.
The officers continued to struggle with the man to disarm
him, and both officers punched him in an effort to handcuff
him. The officers were able to knock the knife out of
the man's hand, but the man continued to swing at the
officers. The officers then pushed the man down on the
ground and handcuffed him. The man banged his head on
the floor, either as a result of being pushed to the
ground or from the ongoing struggle. He was restrained
in a stretcher and taken to St. Barnabus Hospital. From
the St. Barnabus Hospital, the man was transferred to
Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric treatment, where he
was hospitalized for several weeks.
While hospitalized, the man informed his pastor about
the incident and the pastor called the Internal Affairs
Bureau (IAB) on February 27, 2004. IAB notified the
CCRB of the complaint on March 3, 2004; the CCRB interviewed
the man and the man's mother on April 1, 2004. The man
stated that when the officers arrived, he had forgotten
he had the knife in his pocket, and that the officers
had thrown him against the wall and punched him before
slamming him on the ground and kicking his face after
he was handcuffed. He alleged that he had suffered a
broken jaw and cuts to his face. On April 23, 2004,
the man filed a notice of claim announcing his intent
to file a lawsuit seeking $10 million from New York
The medical records that the CCRB obtained showed that
the man had exaggerated the extent of his injuries.
The diagnostic x-ray from St. Barnabus noted "no
evidence of acute fracture or dislocation." The
medical records revealed that the man had cuts on his
wrists, a left wrist sprain, and bruising around his
left eye consistent with banging his head during the
struggle. The lead paramedic corroborated the officers'
account of the incident, stating that the man had tried
to punch them, with the knife out, when he was taken
to the ground. The paramedic further confirmed that
no officer had punched or kicked the man once he was
in handcuffs. When interviewed, the officers admitted
that they used force in the struggle, and both officers
acknowledged punching the man in an attempt to disarm
and handcuff him.
When confronting a violent man in possession of a weapon,
officers are allowed to use appropriate force to disarm
the man and effect an arrest. On April 14, 2005, the
board determined that the physical (bodily) force the
officers used was appropriate given the circumstances
and closed the allegations as exonerated.