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Posts from the "Police Misconduct" Category

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Two Drunk-Driving Cops Crash Cars In Two Nights

A drunk off-duty police officer slammed his car into a police vehicle in Park Slope three weeks ago. In the past two nights, two more off-duty cops crashed their vehicles while driving drunk. Photo: Joanna Oltman Smith

Drunk off-duty New York City police officers have crashed their vehicles each of the last two nights.

On Wednesday evening at around 6:20 p.m., the Daily News reported, officer Christine Mazarakes smashed her car at the corner of 81st Street and West End Avenue. Mazarakes, who is stationed at the Upper West Side’s 24th precinct, was charged with a DWI and suspended.

The following night, Detective Thomas Handley flipped his car over while driving on the BQE at around 11:30. His injuries were somehow only minor, according to the News, and like Mazarakes, he was charged with a DWI and suspended.

The pair of drunk-driving crashes caused by New York’s finest comes a few weeks after a similar crash on Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue. On March 15, Officer Sergio Gonzalez was arrested for driving under the influence after crashing his car into the back of a cab, speeding away from the scene of a crash and then hitting a police car further down the street. Two hypodermic needles were found in Gonzalez’s car, according to the Park Slope Patch.

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Pogan Verdict: Jury Finds Ex-Cop Guilty of Cover-Up, Not Guilty of Assault

The Post reports that the jury has reached a mixed verdict in the trial of Patrick Pogan, the ex-NYPD officer who was seen by millions of YouTube viewers slamming his shoulder into approaching cyclist Christopher Long during a 2008 Critical Mass ride, sending Long to the pavement. Pogan was found guilty of falsifying records when he filed a criminal complaint alleging that Long assaulted him. He faces up to four years in prison for that conviction.

The jury found Pogan not guilty, however, of misdemeanor assault charges. Got that, NYPD? Go ahead and knock people off their bikes, just tell the truth about it afterward and you'll be okay.

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Video: NYPD Efficiently Deploys Officers to Clip Bikes on Houston Street

Via Gothamist, here's the Time's Up video of police in the act of sawing bike locks on Houston Street last Thursday, in preparation for President Obama's motorcade. Gothamist reports that a lawsuit may be brewing over the massive seizure of bicycles, which police held at the 7th Precinct for owners who were lucky enough to know where to go and could find their property.

Yesterday police officials told the City Council that they just don't have the resources to open up life-saving street safety information to the public. But, from the looks of it, they still have sufficient manpower to put 10 or more officers on bicycle confiscation duty.

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Security Overkill Strikes Again

Maybe it was the NYPD's revenge for the disgracing of rookie cop (and detective's son) Patrick Pogan, now on trial for his brutal takedown two years ago of Critical Mass cyclist Christopher Long. Or perhaps it was just the latest manifestation of the post-9/11 security state, in which everything -- parked bikes, basic mobility, even human life -- is sacrificed on the altar of authorities' notion of safety.

I'm referring to the report from the blog This is FYF that earlier today police broke the locks on hundreds of bicycles parked along Houston Street and tossed the bikes onto flatbed trucks:

Citing security concerns that bikes might be secret pipe bombs, NYPD officers broke the locks of hundreds of bikes along Houston Street this morning in preparation for President Obama's speech at Cooper Union. The bikes were unceremoniously put in the back of the truck. There was no prior notification of the bikes needing to be cleared along the route by NYPD and onlookers were not given information as to what would become of the bikes.

holden_ghost_bike.jpgThe ghost bike in memory of Constance Holden. Photo: WashCycle
The New York City police department is no stranger to mass bike confiscation: In 2005, police blowtorched locks on bikes parked along Critical Mass routes as part of a long-running harassment campaign that included summonses and arrests of suspected participants. Today's action will probably be defended under a different and more universal rubric: security at all costs.

Earlier this month, security at all costs helped take the life of veteran journalist Constance Holden, who atop her bicycle got in the way of an 11,000-pound truck driven by a National Guardsman in the security detail for the Washington, DC Nuclear Security Summit. (Note the three uses of "security" in that sentence.) Holden, an experienced urban cyclist not known for flouting authority, had just left her office at Science magazine on her homeward 3.5-mile bike commute when the truck struck and crushed her.

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NYPD Celebrates Earth Day With Massive Houston Street Bike Clipping

NYPD_bike_clipping.jpgPhoto: Anthony Rebholz/This is FYF

Via Gothamist, local blog This is FYF posts this scene from Houston Street earlier today. Apparently, with President Obama due in town for a speech at Cooper Union, NYPD jumped at the chance to drastically overreact by confiscating New Yorkers' personal property. We haven't been able to confirm with the public information office yet, but This is FYF says police cited "security concerns that bikes might be secret pipe bombs" as their excuse:

NYPD officers clipped the locks of hundreds of bikes along Houston Street this morning in preparation for President Obama's speech at Cooper Union. The bikes were unceremoniously put in the back of the truck.  There was no prior notification of the bikes needing to be cleared along the route by NYPD and onlookers were not given information as to what would become of the bikes.

NYPD's penchant for equating bikes and cycling with security threats is, historically speaking, a recent development. If they were doing this stuff forty years ago, Governor Rockefeller might never have made it to his Earth Day speech in Prospect Park.

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NYPD Slams Doored Cyclist with Two Summonses, Lets Driver Off the Hook

While riding home from work on the morning of March 22, Rodney Seymour was doored by a truck driver. When the police responded to his 911 call, instead of ticketing the doorer, they hit Seymour with two summonses for improperly equipping his bike. 

RodneySeymour.JPGRodney Seymour, after being doored and ticketed, and before having his bike stolen.
Seymour says he was biking safely, heading home from work in the direction of traffic and wearing an orange reflective vest and helmet. After crossing 10th Street on Third Avenue, heading north, he got doored by a box truck driver, falling onto his shoulder and head. "I was in a little pain and the truck driver suggested I call the cops," said Seymour. "He was very cooperative."

A fire truck and ambulance arrived first. The EMTs took Seymour's vitals, gave him an ice pack and suggested he wait for the police to arrive so he could make a report. An accident report is necessary in order to get the doorer to pay a victim's medical bills under New York's no-fault law, said Mark Taylor, Seymour's attorney.  

When an officer from the Ninth Precinct arrived on the scene, Seymour found him more interested in avoiding paperwork than helping an injured cyclist. "He got very upset because I was insisting on having a police report," said Seymour. He recalled the officer yelling, "You want a report? You want a report? I'll give you a report!" (The Ninth Precinct has not returned Streetsblog's requests for comment.)

The officer then walked back to his vehicle, Seymour said, returning ten minutes later with the report in hand. But that wasn't all. He'd also brought over two summonses.

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Eyes on the Street: NYPD Chivalry Is Dead on 34th Street

NYPDBuslane1.jpgThe officers who parked here apparently aren't the type to help old ladies cross the street. Photo: ddartley/Flickr
Thanks to tipster ddartley for the latest chapter in NYPD's ongoing mistreatment of bus riders on 34th Street. Yesterday, eight cruisers from northern Queens (precincts 110, 111, 112, 114 and 115) sat parked in the bus lane between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. During evening rush hour. You know, we're starting to think there may be a pattern here.

This time, the police stepped up their game, blocking the bus stop itself and forcing elderly passengers to disembark in the middle of the street. Since shame can't keep police from inconveniencing bus passengers, maybe a physically separated busway on 34th will do the trick.

More pics after the jump.

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Why Car Chases Are Never Worth the Risk

Peter Moskos is a former Baltimore police officer and an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A version of this essay also appeared on his blog, Cop in the Hood, and in the West Side Spirit.

Karen Schmeer, a friend of a dear friend, was killed on January 29 while carrying groceries home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. She was killed by a speeding car filled with drug-shoplifting hoodlums fleeing the police. The impact knocked her out of her boots and flung her through the air, half a city block.

Let me be clear: the police did not kill Karen Schmeer. Criminals did. Let them rot. But their guilt does not absolve the police of responsibility.
Karen’s death is more than a simple tragedy. Karen wasn’t just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Karen might be alive if police did not bend or break the exact rules put in place to prevent this kind of senseless death.

Let me be clear: the police did not kill Karen Schmeer. Criminals did. Let them rot. But their guilt does not absolve the police of responsibility.

While it is the job of police to catch crooks, it’s not always their job to chase crooks. Not in cars. Cars are dangerous.

Police say they weren’t in pursuit at the time of the crash, but witnesses, according to the Daily News, “saw the car weaving in and out of traffic going north on Broadway with a squad car with lights and sirens blaring in hot pursuit.” Why the discrepancy? Because police should never be chasing suspects up Broadway at 8 p.m.

You don't need to pull the trigger to be guilty of murder. You don’t have to want to kill somebody. You do need to accept the likely consequences of your actions. This is what moral responsibility is about.

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NYPD Admits Error in Pedestrian Death, Says Chases Off-Limits

schmeer.jpgKaren Schmeer. Image: New York Times

The NYPD is no longer denying its involvement -- or error -- in the January 29 car chase that ended with the death of Karen Schmeer on the Upper West Side. At a meeting of the 24th Precinct's community council, Deputy Inspector Kathleen O'Reilly laid out the police's official line: that an officer improperly started a chase and that his supervisor, according to policy, called it off.

In response to a number of questions from concerned citizens at the meeting, Inspector O'Reilly clarified some of the details that have been missing so far. The chase began on the southbound side of Broadway, she said, while Schmeer was eventually killed on the northbound side (a fact that correlates with an account posted by a Streetsblog commenter). A call had gone out over the police radio with a description of a car fleeing the scene of a burglary. The offense was actually shoplifting; the original call was in error.

O'Reilly said that when an officer handing out traffic summonses on Broadway saw that car go by, he gave in to "the absolutely natural instinct to follow." O'Reilly did not deny that the officer began a vehicle pursuit.

According to O'Reilly, that pursuit never should have occurred. The NYPD Patrol Guide states, "Department policy requires that a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if [the] suspect is not immediately apprehended."

O'Reilly gave her interpretation of the rule: "You'd have to have someone -- probably a cop -- shot right in front of you to pursue in Manhattan." Even then, she added, a pursuit probably isn't worth the danger it causes. "We've got ballistics. We've got evidence," she said. "We'll track them down."

O'Reilly also claimed that the chase was called off by the officer's supervisor once he realized what was happening. "Being trained, the sergeant realized the harm and called off the pursuit," she said. The harm was already done, however. Karen Schmeer is the only victim of a homicide in the 24th precinct this year, according to CompStat data [PDF].

There's still a lot that we don't know about Schmeer's death. Another Streetsblog commenter says she saw the police pursue the shoplifters until Schmeer was hit. If true, it sits uneasily with O'Reilly's claim that the chase was called off. No witnesses came forward at the meeting to offer accounts of the crash. O'Reilly also did not indicate whether the officer who began the pursuit was reprimanded for violating precinct policy.

What we do know is that a top officer in a police department which had previously denied that its pursuit contributed to Karen Schmeer's death, and denied involvement in other high-speed chases, has now admitted that an officer began a chase on the Upper West Side, violating protocol and putting citizens in danger.

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Brooklyn Cop Dishes Out Disorderly Conduct Charge to Cyclist Who Ran Red

discon.jpgJeff Geisinger's disorderly conduct summons.

When Jeff Geisinger biked through a red light on Atlantic Avenue last October, he knew that he might get a traffic ticket. So when a cop pulled him over, he wasn't surprised. He just didn't expect to be handed a summons for disorderly conduct, a criminal violation.

What Geisinger did wasn't legal and it wasn't the safest technique. Shortly after midnight on a Tuesday, he ran a red while biking north on Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn, at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue. "There was a stopped car to the right of me on Atlantic waiting to turn north," he said. "As the light turned red and I dashed through the intersection, the car slowly started to turn and I cut in front of it, with enough distance between the two of us for me to pass by safely." An officer saw the maneuver and pulled him over.

It's hard to imagine that what happened next would have happened to a motorist who did the same thing. Rather than write a traffic ticket, the officer issued Geisinger a summons for disorderly conduct.

While moving violations are non-criminal offenses, disorderly conduct is part of New York's penal code and carries a fine of up to $250 and up to 15 days in prison. It's something of a catch-all charge, probably by design, that can theoretically be invoked for "threatening behavior," making "unreasonable noise," using "abusive language" in public, or obstructing traffic, among other things.

Geisinger says that he didn't give the officer a hard time or make a scene, making much of the statute inapplicable to his situation, but not necessarily all of it. (The 77th Precinct has not returned Streetsblog's requests for comment.)

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