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Patch of New York City Police Department

Various allegations have been made against the New York City Police Department throughout the department's history, some involving police misconduct. The listing documents the occurrence, making no implications regarding either wrongdoing or justification on the part of any involved parties.

Single-victim incidents

1962 Frank Lino arrest

In 1962, the Bonanno crime family mobster Frank Lino was arrested for his alleged involvement in the shootings of two Brooklyn police detectives. The detectives, aged 28 and 56, were shot dead during a holdup of a tobacco store in Gravesend, Brooklyn, where Lino and two others netted $5,000. Lino was charged with the murders after supplying a getaway vehicle for one of the "stick-up men" so that he could then flee to Chicago. Lino was one of the five men charged after being taken to the 66th Precinct for an interrogation. During Lino's interrogation, he claimed that police officers drove staples into his hands and a broomstick up his rectum. He alleged that the abuse resulted in a broken leg and arm. Lino was later released with three years probation after he threatened to sue the city for police brutality. He also claimed that the uncontrollable blinking of his eyes was a direct result of the alleged beating.

1973 Clifford Glover shooting

On April 28, 1973, Officer Thomas Shea shot 10-year old Clifford Glover while in South Jamaica, Queens, thinking Clifford had a gun. On June 12, 1974, Shea was acquitted of wrongdoing by 11 white and one black jurors but was fired from the NYPD that year.

1976 Randolph Evans shooting

On Thanksgiving Day (November 25), 1976, Officer Robert Torsney shot Randolph Evans to death while responding to a call at Evans's Brooklyn housing project home. Torsney was found not guilty by insanity defense (Automatism of Penfield epilepsy) and was committed to a psychiatric hospital in Brooklyn until December 20, 1978 when state reviewers declared him no longer a threat to himself or society and released him.

1983 Michael Stewart chokehold

On September 15, 1983, Michael Jerome Stewart was arrested for spray painting graffiti on a wall of Manhattan's First Avenue station. He was violent with the officers, ran to the street and became unconscious and died on September 28, 1983. In October 1983, the case went before a grand jury in Manhattan, but was dismissed 7 months later because one of the jurors started private investigations on the case. In February 1984, a second grand jury indicted three officers with criminally negligent homicide, assault and perjury, while three other officers were charged with perjury and jury selection started in June 1985. On November 24, 1985, all six of the indicted officers were acquitted by a jury. In 1987, the eleven involved officers and the MTA were sued for $40 million. In August 1990, Michael's parents and siblings settled out of court for $1.7 million.

1984 Eleanor Bumpurs shooting

On October 29, 1984, without any advance notice police used a battering ram to gain entrance to Bumpurs' public housing apartment where she lived alone. Adult daughters wanted her to be hospitalized because she was schizophrenic with hallucinations. Although NYPD procedure required a City psychiatrist to be called in a case of involuntary hospitalization, none was summoned to the scene. Bumpers was also being evicted supposedly for nonpayment of rent. Although NYPD procedure required a City marshal to be present and restricted the role of police to protecting the marshal and the marshal's assistants, no marshal was summoned to the scene. It later turned out that she had paid her rent as usual but had not been informed of a recent rent increase. When police broke down the door without first identifying themselves, the elderly obese woman was standing at the far end of a hallway with a kitchen knife in her raised hand. Officer Stephen Sullivan fired two shots from his 12-gauge single barreled shotgun, sending one pellet into Bumpers' hand and nine other pellets into her chest, killing her. Sullivan was tried and acquitted in 1987. In 1990, the city ended the legal proceedings by agreeing to pay $200,000 to Bumpurs family estate.

1985 Mark Davidson stun gun incident

On April 17, 1985, Mark Davidson was arrested by undercover detectives on charges of drug dealing and taken to NYPD's 106th precinct in Ozone Park, Queens, where he was beaten and tortured with a stun gun and threatened with torture on his genitals into making a false confession. On May 3, 1986, Sgt. Richard Pike, Jeffrey Gilbert and Loren MacLary were each convicted of assault and were sentenced to four to six years.

1985 Edmund Perry shooting

On June 12, 1985, Edmund Perry returned to the city after graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire when Edmund and his brother, Jonah, were walking in Morningside Park where they encountered Lee Van Houten, an undercover plainclothes detective on auto burglary patrol. Edmund tried to rob Van Houten by grabbing his neck and Van Houten fell to the ground and fired three shots, at least one in Edmund's stomach, killing him immediately. About 23 witnesses supported Van Houten's version of the incident, resulting in his acquittal.

1992 Jose Garcia shooting

On July 3, 1992, Jose Garcia died from gunshots fired by undercover officer Michael O'Keefe after Garcia was beaten and chased into a building in Washington Heights. Police asserted that Garcia had been carrying a concealed weapon. However, witnesses to the struggle and residents of Washington Heights said they believed the shooting death of Garcia was unwarranted, triggering demonstrations on the block where Garcia was killed. "Fires were set," according to a report of the demonstrations published by The New York Times, adding that "a car was overturned and debris rained down from buildings, leaving the block of the shooting, West 162d Street off St. Nicholas Avenue, littered with garbage, shattered bottles, vegetables, crates, slats of wood and even car parts." At the time of the demonstrations, police were unable to say "whether Mr. Garcia had pulled the gun on Officer O'Keefe or in some other way menaced the officer."[1]

Overall, six days of demonstrations took place, during which protesters "tossed trash cans, bottles and rocks, broke windows, looted and overturned and burned police cars," leading to "139 arrests, one death and 90 injuries, including those suffered by 74 police officers," according to a subsequent report by The New York Times. Fires were set to 14 buildings, and damage was made to 121 vehicles. Two months after Mr. Garcia was shot and killed, a Manhattan grand jury voted not to file criminal charges against Officer O'Keefe.[2]

Officer O'Keefe was assigned to the NYPD's 34th Precinct, a station house that became the target, just one month before Garcia's shooting death, of a federal investigation over allegations of police corruption. Reported corruption at the 34th Precinct inspired Mayor David Dinkins to appoint the Mollen Commission to investigate police corruption.[3]

1994 Anthony Baez death

On December 22, 1994, 29-year old Anthony Baez was choked to death by police officer Francis X. Livoti in the University Heights section of the Bronx. In 1998, Livoti was convicted of violating Baez' civil rights, and two other officers were convicted of lying on the witness stand at Livoti's trial.[4]

1997 Abner Louima sodomy

On August 9, 1997, Police Officer Justin Volpe in Brooklyn sodomized Abner Louima with a broken broom handle in the 70th Precinct bathroom. Officer Volpe eventually pled guilty and received a sentence of 30 years in federal prison. Other officers were also implicated and convicted on charges stemming from the initial cover-up.[5]

1999 Amadou Diallo death

On February 4, 1999, four plainclothes NYPD officers working under the Street Crimes Unit fired 41 gunshots at Amadou Diallo, killing him instantly. Diallo, whom the officers mistook for a since-convicted rapist, was later found to be unarmed. The officers were subsequently acquitted, but the City of New York and the NYPD later paid out US$3,000,000 to Diallo's parents in a civil suit. Following the controversy, the Street Crimes Unit was abolished three years later.

2000 Patrick Dorismond death

On March 16, 2000, Dorismond was approached by undercover officer Anthony Vasquez, who asked Dorismond how he and his partners could buy marijuanna. When Dorismond refused, a struggle occurred and Vasquez shot the unarmed Dorismond to death. Much of the resulting controversy was about releasing Dorismond's sealed juvenile record to the media, claiming a person's right to privacy no longer existed once such persons die. Vasquez was never indicted by a grand jury for Dorismond's death.

2003 Ousmane Zongo death

On May 22, 2003, 43-year old Ousmane Zongo, an immigrant from Burkina Faso, was shot four times by Police Officer Bryan Conroy in a Chelsea warehouse. In 2005, Conroy was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and sentenced to 5 years probation. In 2006, the city awarded the Zongo family $3 million to settle a wrongful death suit.[6]

2004 Timothy Stansbury death

On January 24, 2004, Housing Bureau officer Richard Neri, Jr., accidentally shot to death Timothy Stansbury, a 19-year-old black man who was trespassing on the roof landing of a Bedford-Stuyvesant housing project. Stansbury was unarmed but had apparently startled Neri upon opening the roof door coming upon the officer. At that point, Neri discharged his service firearm and mortally wounded Stansbury. Although Commissioner Kelly stated that the shooting appeared "unjustified", a Brooklyn jury found that no criminal act occurred and that the event was a tragic accident. Neri was thus cleared of all charges.[7] The city later agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the Stansbury family. A grand jury declined to indict Neri but Kelly later suspended him for 30 days without pay and permanently stripped him of his weapon.[8]

2006 Sean Bell shooting incident

On November 25, 2006, plainclothes police officers shot and killed Sean Bell and wounded two of his companions, one critically, outside of the Kalua Cabaret in Queens. No weapon was recovered.[9] According to the police, Bell rammed his vehicle into an undercover officer and hit an unmarked NYPD minivan twice, prompting undercover officers to fire fifty rounds into Bell's car. A bullet piercing the nearby AirTrain JFK facility startled two Port Authority patrolmen stationed there.[10] An undercover officer claims he heard one of the unarmed man's companions threaten to get his gun to settle a fight with another individual. Civil case resumes May 6, 2010.[11] On April 25, 2008, Justice Arthur Cooperman cleared Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora of murder charges and Detective Marc Cooper of reckless endangerment in the death of Sean Bell.[12]

2008 kidnapping of drug dealer

On October 29, 2008, officer Jorge Arbaje-Diaz pled not guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court to charges that he kidnapped, robbed, and tortured drug dealers for more than 1,600 pounds (730 kg) of cocaine and $4 million in cash.[13]

2008 NYPD subway sodomy scandal

On October 15, 2008, five officers attempted to arrest Michael Mineo for smoking marijuana in a Brooklyn subway station. Days later, Mineo made accusations claiming he was sodomized with a police radio antenna by the officers. On December 9, 2008, the Brooklyn District Attorney announced that three of the officers, Richard Kern, Alex Cruz, and Andrew Morales, were indicted on criminal charges. According to the District Attorney, officer Kern sodomized Mineo with his expandable baton after the officers handcuffed him. Officer Kern was charged with aggravated sexual abuse and assault, and faced up to 25 years in prison, and officers Cruz and Morales were charged with hindering prosecution and official misconduct, and faced up to 4 years in prison.[14] All three officers were acquitted of all charges.

2010 retaliation against Adrian Schoolcraft

In May 2010, Adrian Schoolcraft, a former NYPD officer, publicized recordings he made in secret while on duty, showing a pattern of corruption and retaliation against him for refusing to cooperate. Officers detained citizens without charges to meet quota and failed to report serious crimes, including rape, to make their department appear to be reducing crime rates. When the NYPD learned that Schoolcraft was privately investigating such corruption, concern for his mental health was used as an excuse for armed officers to kidnap and imprison him in a hospital. As of 2010 he was suspended without pay and was filing suit against the NYPD.[15][16][17] In further retaliation, lawyers for the city of New York on behalf of the NYPD served a subpoena on Graham Rayman, the journalist who reported about Schoolcraft's secret recordings, attempting to abridge the journalist's First Amendment rights by accessing Rayman's records. The city's subpoena to Rayman was seen as a way for the NYPD to gain access to Schoolcraft's tapes. The requests in the subpoena "were made without particularity and essentially seek widespread access to all of Rayman's files." However, a federal judge ruled that the city of New York could only access limited materials.[18]

2010 asthma death incident

In August 2010, 11-year-old Briana Ojeda died from an asthma attack after NYPD officer Alfonso Mendez denied her mother's pleas to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Ojeda's mother allegedly was driving her daughter to the hospital when she took a wrong one-way turn in a neighborhood street and stopped to ask Officer Alfonso Mendez for help. Ojeda's mother claimed Mendez smirked at her and said, "I don't know CPR," and tried to ticket her. A bystander performed CPR and by the time an ambulance arrived, Mendez had left. After a one week manhunt, Mendez was identified and has been suspended without pay indefinitely.

2011 Michael Premo case

Occupy Wall Street activist Michael Premo was arrested on December 17, 2011 and charged with assaulting an officer. Prosecutors argued and the arresting officer gave sworn testimony that Premo "charged the police like a linebacker, taking out a lieutenant and resisting arrest so forcefully that he fractured an officer's bone."

The defense located video that was taken by freelancer Jon Gerberg which contradicted the sworn testimony, instead showing officers "tackling [Premo] as he attempted to get back on his feet". Prosecutors claimed no video of Premo's arrest existed, yet the Gerberg video clearly showed an NYPD officer also filming Premo's arrest.[19] Nick Pinto of Village Voice wrote that "information provided by the NYPD in the trial was fabricated to such a degree that the allegations made by the police officers have turned out to be quite literally the opposite of what actually happened.[19]

In March 2013, Premo was acquitted of all charges.[20][21]

2012 Ramarley Graham death

On February 2, 2012, 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was chased into his Bronx home by a unit of plainclothes NYPD officers. Once inside, Graham struggled with one of the police officers near the entrance to a bathroom. Graham was shot once in the chest by the police officer, and Graham was eventually transported to Montefiore Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. According to a police spokesperson, there was "no evidence" that Graham was armed. Initial statements did not explain what prompted the chase. Police would not, at first, identify the identity of the shooting officer, but police said that a small amount of marijuana was found in the toilet.[22] The shooting officer was later identified as Richard Haste, and first- and second-degree manslaughter charges were filed against him, to which Haste pleaded not guilty at his arraignment four months after the shooting. After the arraignment hearing, the Bronx District Attorney said that the shooting was unjustified, since Graham had no weapon. In the time between the shooting and the arraignment, the Graham family demanded justice. "The shooting of Mr. Graham has become a flash point in the roiling debate over police aggression; his family has taken part in several vigils and rallies to press for criminal charges in the case, as well as highlight what some critics say is a bias shown by the police against young men of color," The New York Times reported.[23]

After a judge threw out the manslaughter charges against Haste due to a technicality in the proceedings of the first grand jury, a second grand jury voted not to file charges against Haste, leading the Graham family to demand a federal investigation into the unjustified police shooting.[24]

2013 Kyam Livingston death

On July 21, 2013, 37-year-old Kyam Livingston died in NYPD custody after being arrested by officers of Brooklyn's 70th Precinct due to a verbal confrontation with her grandmother that police say was in violation of an order of protection. Upon arrest, Livingston was brought to Kings County Hospital for alcohol and drug testing but was released in a few hours. She was then processed at the precinct and brought to Brooklyn Central Booking to await arraignment.[25] After approximately 13 hours in custody, Livingston experienced stomach pain and diarrhea and began to repeatedly request medical assistance over the course of seven more hours. According to witnesses, NYPD officers on duty refused to issue Livingston any medical attention, stating that she was an "alcoholic" and threatening to "lose the paperwork" of Livingston and other women in the cell who were pleading for someone to come to her aid. It was further reported that Livingston was dead for at least 20 minutes before emergency medical staff arrived.[26]

Beginning in August 2013, there were repeated demonstrations in Brooklyn demanding the names of the officers on duty at the time of Livingston's death, the release of video surveillance tapes from the cell Livingston was detained in, and the full investigation and improvement of conditions at Brooklyn Central Booking jail.[27][28] Livingston's family filed a Notice of Claim against the NYPD and other government entities as a prerequisite to an $11 million lawsuit,[29] and called for the criminal prosecution of any police officer who denied medical attention to Livingston while she was in their custody.[30] The NYPD Internal Affairs Division’s investigation of the matter is ongoing.

2013 Alexian Lien beating

Aftermath showing broken window of Lien's Range Rover

On September 29, 2013, motorcyclists participated in a rally called "Hollywood's Block Party" on New York City's Henry Hudson Parkway. One of the bikers pulled in front of Alexian Lien and slowed dramatically, an action sometimes referred to as "brake checking". Lien stopped his vehicle and was quickly surrounded by bikers. Lien accelerated to escape and struck one of the bikers, critically injuring him. A chase ensued, ending in Lien being pulled from his vehicle and beaten. The attack was caught on video and garnered international attention.[31] A number of bikers are facing assault and other criminal charges, and legislation has been proposed to regulate motorcycle rallies in New York City.[32]

The NYPD faced criticism when some of the bikers involved in the chase and attack were identified as off-duty New York City police officers. Ten-year veteran and undercover detective Wojciech Braszczok surrendered to authorities and was arrested on October 8.[33] An undercover narcotics detective has been identified by the press as being present but not participating in the assault.[33] Sources have reported a total of five off-duty officers were originally present on the West Side Highway, and that at least two saw the assault.[34]

2014 Eric Garner death

On July 17, 2014, at 4:45 p.m., Eric Garner was approached by a plainclothes police officer, Justin Damico, in front of a beauty supply store at 202 Bay Street in the Tompkinsville neighborhood in Staten Island. After telling the police officers, "I was just minding my own business. Every time you see me you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today!"[35] Garner raised both his arms in the air and was then put in a chokehold from behind by officer Daniel Pantaleo, in order to be subdued. While Garner repeatedly stated he was not able to breathe, other officers struggled to bring him down onto the sidewalk and have him put his arms behind his back. A video of the encounter showed officer Pantaleo using his hands to push Garner's face into the sidewalk. He died a few minutes later.[35][36][37]

The video also showed that police waited seven minutes before giving Garner cardiopulmonary resuscitation.[38][39] Use of the chokehold has been prohibited by New York City Police Department policy since 1993.[40]

In an apparent act of retaliation, the NYPD arrested Ramsey Orta, the civilian who recorded the video of the encounter. Orta's family have said that Orta has been followed by police.[41]

The final autopsy report in Garner's death showed that Garner did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system and had no head trauma.[42] The New York Times reported that the autopsy suggested his obesity and health problems combined with pinning him to the ground and bringing him down with a chokehold may have caused his fatal heart attack.[43]

As a result of Eric Garner's death, Police Commissioner William Bratton ordered an extensive review of the NYPD's training procedures after Garner's death, specifically focusing on the appropriate amount of force that can be used while detaining a suspect.[44]

2014 Akai Gurley shooting

On November 20, 2014, Officer Peter Liang fatally shot unarmed 28-year-old Akai Gurley at a Brooklyn housing project. NYPD Commissioner Bratton has stated that Officer Liang had already drawn his weapon before encountering Gurley, but deemed it an accidental discharge after an investigation.[45]

Multiple-victim incidents

Public involvement

Handschu court case

A 1970s trial of 21 members of the Black Panther Party revealed that NYPD infiltrated and kept dossiers on not only the Black Panthers and other radical groups, but also on anti-war groups, gay rights activists, educational reform advocates, religious groups, and civic organizations. A large coalition of activist groups accused police of compiling information to punish and repress lawful dissent.[46] Barbara Handschu was a lead plaintiff in the 1971 class action suit Handschu v. Special Services Division, 605 F.Supp. 1384, affirmed 787 F.2d 828.[47] In the 1985 ruling, the court sided with Handschu,[48] finding that police surveillance of political activity violated constitutional protections of free speech.[47] The ruling brought about the agreement.[49]

1988 Tompkins Square Park Riot

In August 1988, a riot erupted in Alphabet City's Tompkins Square Park in the East Village of Manhattan when police attempted to enforce a newly passed curfew for the park. Bystanders, artists, residents, homeless people and political activists clashed with police on the night of August 6 and the early morning of the following day.[50] In a report released by Commissioner Benjamin Ward, the police department's actions were "not well planned, staffed, supervised or executed... which culminated in a riot."

1998 Matthew Shepard memorial march

When the LGBTQ community in New York City organized a solemn, memorial march one week after Matthew Shepard died of injuries sustained during an attack in what was called a hate crime, the NYPD responded in riot gear and on horseback, arresting 96 mourners and using some violent tactics,[51] triggering at least one federal, constitutional rights violations lawsuit.[52]

2002 World Economic Forum

When activists peacefully demonstrated against the World Economic Forum in 2002, the NYPD responded by erecting barricade-like pens for protesters, wearing riot gear and gas masks, and making what were described as either selective arrests by "extracting particular people" or wholesale arrests based on charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct.[53]

2003 anti-war protests

After the September 11 attacks, activists in New York City participated in a global day of protests against the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq. In court the NYPD opposed efforts by activists to organize a march, convincing a judge that activists should only hold a stationary demonstration. The day of the demonstration, police used horse-mounted officers, who charged at protesters, injuring some activists; used barricades to restrict protesters' access to the demonstration site and to trap activists during the demonstration; conducted widespread searches without a warrant; and detained some activists for many hours in vans without access to bathrooms or food.[54]

2004 Republican National Convention

Many peaceful protesters were arrested at the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. Over the course of several days, mass arrests by the NYPD netted over 400 people.[55] The use of flexible, plastic orange netting to "divide and conquer protestors," including pedestrians, according to The New York Times.[56] The apparent willingness by NYPD to arrest innocent people crossed a threshold in the police department's disregard for following the law in order to enforce the law. Indeed, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told The New York Times that if the NYPD engaged in the false arrests of innocent activists, then there was a way to deal with the false arrests after the fact. “You can’t arrest 1,800 people without having somebody in the middle who shouldn’t have been arrested,” Mayor Bloomberg said of the number of arrests made during the 2004 Republican National Convention, adding, “That’s what the courts are there to find out afterwards.”[57]

Among other actions causing controversy toward the NYPD, a thousand people were detained under conditions, including overcrowding, dirtiness, and contamination of oil and asbestos, described as unfit for detention. People also reported having suffered from smell, bad ventilation, and chemical burns and rashes[58][59][60][61][62] The New York Times has also reported on two occasions that the police videotaped, infiltrated, and acted as agents provocateurs during the protests,[63][64] and that officers traveled as far away as Europe beforehand to surveil on people there who planned to protest at the RNC.[63]

The NYPD procured and has deployed Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), also known as a sound cannon, as a non-lethal, crowd-controlling military weapon that can cause injury and is intended to disrupt protests. Two LRAD units were purchased in 2004 at the cost of $35,000 each under the pretense that the devices would only be used to make announcements.[65] An LRAD was at protests of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City[66] but not used.

2011 Occupy Wall Street protests

During the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, 700 were arrested, leading to controversy over the NYPD's policing tactics.[67][68][69]

2014 protests against police killings

In 2014, large-scale protests took place in New York City following the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Akai Gurley in Brooklyn. The protests got bigger after grand juries in Ferguson and in Staten Island separately decided not to file criminal charges against the police officers, who were involved in the chokehold death of Garner and the shooting death of Brown, respectively. In response to these protests, the NYPD made large numbers of arrests and deployed the uses of pepper spray and mobile LRADs to disrupt activists, long regarded by many as controversial.[70] Use of LRADs by the NYPD triggered legal objections on the basis that there may have never been "formal guidelines for the devices’ use".[65]

Political pressure to address fatal interactions with the NYPD escalated after the Daily News reported statistics that showed that, in the time between the 1999 slaying of Amadou Diallo and the 2014 shooting death of Akai Gurley, on-duty NYPD officers were involved in 179 fatalities.[71]

Corruption and Other Misconduct

1986 77th Precinct corruption arrests

In September 1986, 11 NYPD officers were arrested from the 77th Precinct station house in the first major instance of corruption after the Knapp Commission. The investigation came to be known as the "Buddy Boys" case. The officers, "who knocked down doors, stole money and drugs from drug dealers and resold the stolen drugs," revealed that bad cops "ran extortion operations out of nearly every precinct house," according to a corruption timeline prepared by The New York Times.[72] Eventually, 13 officers were indicted, and 90 police officers—nearly half of the police force at the 77th Precinct station house—had to be transferred to other Brooklyn precincts, in an effort to disband the troubled group.[73] A special state prosecutor, Charles Hynes, had to present evidence to a special grand jury in the corruption investigation.[74]

1992 cocaine ring scandal

In May 1992, five current and one retired NYPD officers were arrested and charged with trafficking drugs from Brooklyn into Long Island. Two of the officers were partners at the 94th Precinct, whilst the other officers were from the 73rd Precinct.[75]

Prosecutors alleged that one of the officers arrested, Michael Dowd, knew when he was under surveillance and may have benefited from tips from department investigators. How Dowd may have managed, for some time, to evade investigation became a subject of inquiry by the Mollen Commission.[76]

1992 34th Precinct corruption investigation

Federal investigators launched a probe over reports that some police officers were engaged in drug dealing. At the same time, Mayor David Dinkins announced that he would "name a special investigator to look into the charges of corruption, as well as possible lapses in the Police Department's internal investigation methods. Aides to the Mayor said the investigator would be Milton Mollen, the former Deputy Mayor for Public Safety," according to a report published by The New York Times, adding that the investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office was focusing on the 34th Precinct, further noting that "The investigation is an unusual Federal intrusion into the workings of the city's Police Department and it raises the specter of a departmental problem larger than that acknowledged by Police Department officials." Amongst aspects or allegations triggering investigatory scrutiny was the fact that the 34th Precinct had the highest rate of homicides and that some 34th Precinct police officers were "overlooking drug dealing in exchange for money and drugs and acting as guardians for the dealers by protecting the buildings and stores where they live and work. Other officers are suspected of buying and selling cocaine or crack."[3]

Top brass at NYPD claimed that the Brooklyn cocaine ring and the 34th Precinct corruption allegations were isolated incidents, in spite of complaints of other wrongdoings. Some complaints noted that officers with NYPD's Internal Affairs mishandled investigations.

In 1994, the 34th Precinct had the highest number of corruption complaints, according to statistics reported by The New York Daily News.[77]

The three-year federal investigation of the 34th Precinct ended with only one conviction of perjury.[78]

1992 police riot

An estimated 10,000 off-duty NYPD officers showed up to a rally organized by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association outside City Hall. The off-duty police officers were called to action by the police union over disapproval with actions taken by the then mayor, David Dinkins. Police were protesting, amongst other complaints, that Dinkins had appointed the Mollen Commission to investigate NYPD corruption. To show their disapproval with the Dinkins administration, the officers began the rally with rhetoric that was described as "vicious," with officers engaging in jarring behavior, including "jumping barricades, tramping on automobiles, mobbing the steps of City Hall" and "blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge for nearly an hour in the most unruly and angry police demonstration in recent memory," according to an account of the rally published by The New York Times. There were instances when some of the 300 uniformed police officers, who were supposed to police the rally, actually encouraged raucous behavior by the protesters. Dinkins blamed PBA leadership, as well as then presumed mayoral candidate Rudolph Giuliani, for inciting the police into rowdy actions, calling the actions by police as "bordering on hooliganism." [79]

The Editorial Board of The New York Times called the police rally a "riot," finding both praise and fault in a preliminary report by NYPD of the police misconduct. The report found that police officers used racial slurs to describe Dinkins, who is Black, and that there had been drinking in connection with the rally. Generally, the report was well received by the Editorial Board for its frankness, but, in the editors' nuanced view of the report, the report still fell short, because the report was "thick with language critical of the unruly behavior but apparently thin on charges against individual rioters," again pointing out that the NYPD was unable to keep the conduct of its own officers in check. Then Acting NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly himself "raised serious questions about the Department's willingness and ability to police itself," according to The New York Times.[80]

1993-1994 109th Precinct corruption arrests

After the NYPD received complaints that police officers assigned to the 109th Precinct were using drugs, four officers were confronted. Three officers took drugs tests, failed, and were dismissed. One officer resigned.[81]

The investigation of the precinct extended to at least 20 police officers, including a sergeant. Some officers were given desk jobs or transferred to other precincts. Three officers from the precinct were indicted for theft. In its report about the investigations at the 109th Precinct, The New York Times noted that although the allegations were not as severe as those at the 30th Precinct, the investigation was notable, "because it demonstrates that major corruption exists in precincts outside the high-crime areas where the temptations for drug-related corruption are usually highest."[82]

In the face of allegations that a police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, was undertaking "aggressive efforts to thwart major corruption inquiries," according to The New York Times, John Miller, then the Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information, said he found the actions "disturbing." Efforts to root out bad cops were made difficult by the P.B.A., as that police union is known, according to officials and prosecutors, who worried "that they will have trouble rooting out substantial numbers of corrupt officers as long as the P.B.A. resists them," as reported by The New York Times. Indeed, the P.B.A. was shown to be a powerful organization with great influence. "Fortified with millions of dollars in annual dues collections, the P.B.A. is one of the most powerful unions in the city. As an active lobbyist in Albany and as a contributor to political campaigns, the P.B.A. has enormous influence over the department and is typically brought in for consultations before important management decisions are made."[83]

1994 73rd Precinct corruption arrests

In January 1994, five NYPD officers assigned to the 73rd Precinct station house were removed from duty over allegations of extorting cash, guns, and drugs from drug dealers. The investigation referred to the group of implicated police officers by the moniker, the "Morgue Boys," because the officers would sometimes retreat near an abandoned coffin factory, where the officers would divide the proceeds of their criminality. Federal and state investigators worked in partnership to collect evidence for a federal grand jury, which included information that the implicated police officers would hold up drug dealers at gunpoint, usually while on-duty, netting up to $2,000 per night in criminal proceeds. The investigation into corruption at the 73rd Precinct was made possible by information gathered at hearings held by the Mollen Commission.[84]

Eventually, 15 police officers were suspected of having participated in the "Morgue Boys" ring,[85] resulting in at least six arrests, three of which pleaded guilty, with the remaining three receiving either acquittals or mistrials by trial jurors with respect to criminal and civil rights charges, respectively.[81]

1994 30th Precinct corruption arrests

Thirty-three officers were arrested in a wide-ranging investigation of corruption at the 30th Precinct station house up in Harlem. Some of the police officers would illegally search known drug dealers' apartments, seizing drugs and cash. The police officers would then sell the seized drugs straight out of the 30th Precinct station house itself at half-market price in order to profit from their spoils.

The arrests, which implicated nearly one out of six officers assigned to the 30th Precinct station house, were the fruits of a probe began by an investigator, who worked for the Mollen Commission.[86]

1995 48th Precinct corruption arrests

Sixteen police officers from the 48th Precinct station house up in The Bronx were indicted and arrested on corruption charges including larceny, filing false police reports, and insurance fraud. Seven further officers faced disciplinary action, but not arrests, because there was insufficient evidence to lead to indictments. In total, nearly 10 per cent. of the police officers assigned to the 48th Precinct house were implicated in a corruption investigation that was inspired by pressure created by the Mollen Commission.[87]

Reports also showed that a police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, undertook aggressive efforts to thwart investigations into corruption at the 48th Precinct.[83]

2006 Flushing brothel seizures

Dennis Kim and Jerry Svoronos, two police officers working out of the 109th Precinct, Gina Kim and Geeho Chae, brothel operators, were arrested on March 8, 2006, for bribery charges relating to the protection of a brothel located in Flushing, Queens. Agents seized approximately $800,000 in cash, believed to be the proceeds of the brothel, from Kim and Chae's vehicle and residence. On March 8, 2006 search warrants were executed at the brothel and a boarding house used by the brothel workers, and agents seized immigration documents, business records, and a small quantity of ecstasy. The two officers were in a unit which targets quality-of-life-type crimes.[88] Members of the precincts engaged in a practice known as "flaking", in which cops planted marijuana, cocaine, or Ecstasy on suspects. Members of the conditions unit maintained a small stash of drug in an Altoids tin for this purpose, Assistant U.S. Attorney Monica Ryan said.[89] In addition, 16 Chinese and Korean brothel workers were taken into immigration custody.

Mafia cops

Louis Eppolito and Steven Caracappa who, while on the payroll of the NYPD, were also on the payroll of the Lucchese crime family and were abusing their authority as officers of the NYPD. They would routinely violate the civil rights of the citizens of New York City, and moonlighted for the crime family. They would use NYPD files to track down the enemies of the crime family and were ultimately convicted of the murders of Eddie Lino, Michael Greenwald (an informant for the FBI) and innocent man Nick Guido who had the same name as a man targeted by the crime family. Eppolito received life in prison with an additional 100 years and Caracappa received life in prison with an additional 80 years. They were also fined a combined $4 million. They received a monthly salary of $5000 from the crime family.[90]

NYPD "rape cops" scandals

In December 2008, two on-duty NYPD officers were charged with raping a woman whom they had been dispatched to help on a 911 call. Officers Kenneth Moreno, age 43, and Franklin Mata, age 29, were called to help a drunken woman climb out of a taxi and into her apartment in 2008. The woman testified that she awoke in her bedroom to being raped by Moreno; Mata was said to have acted as a lookout during the incident. Although both men were acquitted of the rape at trial in May 2011, the jury's verdict proved highly controversial and drew large protests.[91] Moreno and Mata were, however, found guilty of official misconduct for going back into the woman's apartment three times without alerting their superiors and making erroneous calls to 911 with claims of a nonexistent homeless man loitering in the area, to facilitate their return to the premises. As a result of the convictions, both officers were immediately terminated from the NYPD.[92][93]

In September 2011, an off-duty NYPD officer, Michael Pena, was charged with raping a schoolteacher at gunpoint. According to the woman, she was stopped by Pena, who was allegedly intoxicated, and ordered her into an apartment backyard as he pointed a gun into her face. At Pena's trial, the woman tesitifed that Pena had threatened to kill her if she screamed or looked at him as he began to rape her. An apartment resident heard the woman's pleas for him to stop and called 911. The NYPD was able to confirm that Pena was drunk and armed, but he denies raping her. He was charged with 10 felonies, including predatory assault, sexual assault, and first-degree rape, and pled not guilty. On March 27, 2012, Pena was found guilty on the predatory assault and sexual assault charges, but the jury deadlocked on the rape charges. Three months after the trial, Pena pled guilty to rape and was sentenced to 75-to-life.[94]

2011 gun smuggling scandal

In October 2011, five current NYPD police officers and three retired police officers were arrested and charged with trafficking guns into New York state in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash. Six of those implicated worked, or once worked, at the 68th Precinct.[95]

2011 ticket fixing scandal

In October 2011, 16 NYPD police officers were charged with offenses related to ticket fixing.[96] Though only 16 NYPD officers were facing trial, news reports show that hundreds of NYPD police officers were involved, "caught on a phone tap asking for scores of tickets to disappear."[97]

An October 2011 article by Pam Martens in the CounterPunch newsletter, alleged police corruption in reference to the NYPD's Paid Detail Unit that allows corporations to hire NYPD police officers for security duties.[98] The Paid Detail Unit was established by Mayor Giuliani 1998 as a way to increase revenue to New York City that allowed off-duty police officers to moonlight in uniform and as of 2003 nearly half of NYPD's street cops (11,000) were on the Paid Detail Unit.[99] The then commanding officer of the Unit justified the program by claiming cops are off the business payroll the moment they see a crime committed and are expected to respond just as they would if they were off-duty.[99]

Muslim surveillance controversy

After September 11, 2001, the NYPD, with help from the Central Intelligence Agency, has engaged in a systemic effort to track Muslims in the New York metropolitan area,[100] including the Ivy League colleges of Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania.[101] "A months-long investigation by The Associated Press has revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government. And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying."[102]

When the Associated Press published reports on this activity,[102] the NYPD faced much controversy and criticism. Muslims were spied on in mosques, restaurants, streets, public places and Muslim groups, and websites were scrutinized. It resulted in much confusion and anger from Muslim communities in the United States, as well as support from New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. The FBI criticized the spying as unhealthy.[103][104][105][106][107]

The Associated Press won 2012 Pulitzer Prize for the investigation.[108] Later, in June 2012, Muslims in New Jersey sued the NYPD over the spying.[109] However, the lawsuit was dismissed in February 2014 by a federal judge who said that the surveillance of the Muslim community was a lawful effort to prevent terrorism, not a civil-rights violation.[110] The surveillance program was disbanded on April 15, 2014 after a meeting that was held with several Muslim advocates on April 8, 2014. It was also revealed that the surveillance program failed to generate even a single lead.[111]

Rigging of evidence to secure convictions

Retired detective Louis Scarcella and his colleague Stephen W. Chmil rigged evidence to promote their own careers which led to imprisonment of dozens of innocents. District Attorney Charles J. Hynes reopened the cases of 56 people arrested by Detective Scarcella; at least five cases of Detective Chmil’s (out of 300 deemed probably wrongful) scrutinized by nonprofit Exoneration Initiative made clear that he "invented confessions, coached witnesses and persuaded others to change their descriptions of perpetrators to match the suspect in custody — even in cases he worked without Detective Scarcella".[112]


  • David Ranta (for brutal 1990 slaying of a prominent rabbi) was exonerated on NY murder charge on March 23, 2013[113] and won a $6.4 million settlement from the City of New York in 2014.[114]
  • Nelson I. Cruz (1998 killing of a man in East New York, Brooklyn) was arrested at age 16 for murder. He insists he was not at the crime scene.
  • Crack-cocaine addict Jeffrey Campbell (charge: robbery of a shoe store in 1985) was pressured by the detectives to testify against their suspect, else they would set him up on a phony charge.
  • Valance Cole (charge: drug-related homicide of Michael Jennings 1985) was convicted. "In 1994, Mr. Campbell, dying of AIDS, suddenly recanted. He said prosecutors had promised to drop charges if he falsely blamed Mr. Cole for the murder. Detective Chmil, he said in a sworn statement, gave him a script.".[112] Campbell’s recantation was judged incredible and Cole stayed in prison. Years later, another judge acknowledged that Mr. Cole was “probably innocent” but refused to overturn his conviction.
  • Teresa Gomez, a crack-cocaine addict who has since died, claimed to have seen several unrelated murders.

The Legal Aid Society, which represents 20 of the people whose cases were reopened by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, is concerned that the prosecutors’ review is too narrow, because it is limited to cases in which Detective Scarcella testified in court. “There are literally hundreds of cases that could be affected,” said Steven Banks, attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society. “It stands to reason that these 50 are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s enough evidence that Scarcella may not have acted alone. A fair look would require a much broader inquiry.”

Mr. Hynes’s office said it had added about five cases to the review since it was announced in May. The office declined to comment on any cases or say whether consideration was ever given to reviewing Detective Chmil’s investigations. Mr. Hynes lost his re-election bid in November. The incoming district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, suggested during the race that he would be open to widening the scope of the review.[citation needed]

Three half-brothers, Alvena Jennette, Robert Hill and Darryl Austin, have had their murder convictions cleared by the Brooklyn DA in cases linked to Scarcella and Gomez in May 2014.[115]

Attempts at reform

Knapp Commission

The Knapp Commission was appointed in 1970 by former New York City Mayor John Lindsay to investigate corruption at the NYPD after whistleblowers Frank Serpico and David Durk made revelations about corruption at the NYPD. The Knapp Commission’s chief counsel, Michael Armstrong, said at the time that “the department has a serious corruption problem that must be characterized as extensive.” The extent of police corruption included allegations that “several policemen invited a New Jersey gambler to set up shop in the Bronx when a bookmaker in that borough went broke and the policemen lost their source of graft.” Investigations by the Knapp Commission showed a pattern of extorting money from criminals, other payoffs, and other corruption.[116]

In 1971, police officer Serpico, Lt. Durk, and other officers, testified before the Knapp Commission about the corruption they witnessed in the department.

The Knapp Commission faulted some of top city officials at the time, including : a top advisor to the mayor, the former City Commissioner of Investigation, and the former First Deputy Police Commissioner, for failing to act “when informed of widespread bribery among plainclothes policemen responsible for enforcing the gambling laws in the Bronx.” For example, even after police officer Serpico blew the whistle on police corruption, Mayor Lindsay “did not see to it that the specific charges of corruption” made by officer Serpico “were investigated.” The Knapp Commission confirmed that the NYPD’s internal affairs division was corrupted, noting how the head of internal affairs was caught in the act of trying to collect information from the files of the detective bureau “at the request of the first deputy commissioner.” The Knapp Commission further found that there existed a “reluctance on the part of top-level police personnel to undertake investigations that might have led to exposure of widespread corruption inconsistent with the official line that corruption was limited to a few ‘rotten apples.’ ” The Knapp Commission’s findings also faulted the city’s Department of Investigation and the District Attorneys offices for their sub par efforts to fight “the widespread corruption which then existed.”[117]

The Commission's findings led to reforms within the department, developed by Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy. Reforms included decentralizing corruption control, within Field Investigative Units, which were intended to be closer and more in touch with the streets where the problems were.

Mollen Commission

There have been other commissions investigating the NYPD before and after the Knapp Commission, including 1994's Mollen Commission, which documented widespread police abuse during the late 1980s and early 1990s .[118]

The Mollen Commission was appointed in 1992 by former New York City Mayor David Dinkins to investigate corruption at the NYPD. The media reported that an interim report, issued by the Mollen Commission in late 1993, showed that “the New York City Police Department had failed at every level to uproot corruption and had instead tolerated a culture that fostered misconduct and concealed lawlessness by police officers,” adding that the interim report made “findings that some delegates of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the main police union, may have attempted to block corruption investigations.”[119]

The interim report showed that, based on a "variety of sources, including police officers and prosecutors," police unions thwarted efforts to expose corruption. The Mollen Commission recommended the creation of a permanent agency with subpoena power and the authority to conduct its own investigations of police corruption. However, the Mollen Commission stopped short of recommending that this permanent agency should have powers to prosecute its own cases, relegating prosecutions to the city prosecutors. "We find as shocking the incompetence and the inadequacies of the department to police itself," the commission’s chairman, Milton Mollen, was quoted to have said at the time of the release of its interim report.[120]

In 1994, the Mollen Commission issued its final report.[121]

Community relations task force

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani formed a community relations task force after Abner Louima was brutally attacked by several police officers in a Brooklyn precinct house. The recommendations of former Mayor Giuliani’s task force were watered down in order “to make it easier for Mayor Giuliani who called some of the report's recommendations unrealistic to adopt reforms quickly.” Three members of the task force issued a dissenting report, calling for stronger recommendations to fight police brutality after finding “a connection between race and police misconduct.”[122]

Giuliani dismissed the recommendations made by the majority of his own task force. Furthermore, according to The New York Times, the dissenting report made a recommendation, "the creation of an independent special prosecutor's office with the powers to prosecute police brutality and corruption," but the majority of the task force had rejected that proposal.[123]

Failure of oversight

Although the Knapp and Mollen commissions were empaneled to investigate corruption and misconduct at the NYPD, they were not empowered to prosecute their own cases.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) was established as an agency in New York City in 1993 to be staffed by civilians with the authority to investigate allegations of police misconduct. However, two decades later, it's effectiveness was called into question. In 2014, former CCRB executive director Tracey Catapano-Fox alleged in a federal lawsuit that CCRB covers up misconduct by NYPD officers. Ms. Catapano-Fox’s lawsuit alleged that CCRB chair Richard Emery made a “decision to collude” with NYPD, amongst other charges. According to a press report in the Daily News, Ms. Catapano-Fox alleged that Mr. Emery “attempted to conceal recent statistics on the number of stop-and-frisks in the city, and ‘suggested’ claims not be investigated,” adding that, in Ms. Catapano-Fox lawsuit, it was further alleged that Mr. “Emery has made concerted efforts to conceal the true 'stop-and-frisk' statistics.”[124]

Following the Mollen Commission's work, then police commissioner William Bratton opposed the central recommendation of the Mollen Commission : The creation of a permanent commission to investigate corruption at the NYPD and monitor the Internal Affairs Bureau. Commissioner Bratton, at the time, opposed the idea that an outside monitor should have investigatory powers.[125] In the wake of the 30th and 48th Precinct station house corruption scandals, Commissioner Bratton, at the time, reportedly did not take action on a comprehensive memorandum prepared by Walter Mack, the former Deputy Commissioner for Internal Affairs, which "concluded that patterns of abuse and corruption complaints in several precincts in central Brooklyn, upper Manhattan and the Bronx suggested that the corruption uncovered in the 30th and 48th precincts was not unusual," according to The New York Times.[126] Indeed, it was then Commissioner Bratton, who had abruptly dismissed Mack, even though Mack, who was then described as the "department's top corruption fighter" by The New York Times, had "said the same troubling trend of allegations of brutality and corruption found in the 30th and 48th Precincts exist along a wide swath of northern Manhattan and the southern and western portions of the Bronx including the 34th, 44th and 46th Precincts," according to a report in The New York Times. While trying to downplay the size of the problem of police corruption, Bratton testified at a 1994 City Council hearing that there were "hundreds" of police officers, who had committed criminal acts.[127]

In 2011, during a months-long investigation by The Associated Press of the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims, the news agency concluded that, "The department's primary watchdog, the New York City Council, has not held hearings on the intelligence division's operations and former NYPD officials said council members typically do not ask for details."[102]

The complaint that the New York City Council does not adequately oversee the NYPD was repeated again by a whistleblower, Artyom Matusov, who said he was fired by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito after Matusov went "public with allegations that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton deceived lawmakers at a Sept. 8 hearing by lowballing how often his officers use force on the job," according to the Daily News.[128]

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External links

Media related to New York City Police Department corruption and misconduct at Wikimedia Commons