Two black city officials were vindicated — albeit only partially — on Thursday as the NYPD disciplined three officers who detained and handcuffed them after the West Indian Day Parade on Labor Day.
Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush) and Kirsten John Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, had argued that the cops used excessive force — and violated their civil rights — when they shoved and handcuffed the men after they had crossed a police barricade to get to a parade-related event at the Brooklyn Museum.
Both were pleased — albeit only partially — at the NYPD disciplinary action, which validated three of four charges leveled by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“We are happy that some discipline was meted out,” Williams said. “But there is one sore spot for us: that [one] case of force was not substantiated.”
That alleged use of excessive force against Williams was the only one that was not caught on videotape — and the councilman used its dismissal as evidence of a deeper problem with how the NYPD polices its officers.
“What it came down to was my word versus the officer’s [word],” said Williams. “If my word is not good enough, most of the residents words aren’t good enough. [It] says that in order to get a substantiation of a complaint against an officer you have to have a camera on you or a video.”
There is still confusion about what actually happened in the Sept. 5 incident. Williams and John Foy say that they had been granted permission from a cop to enter a barricaded “frozen zone” after explaining that they were on official duty and need to get to the parade event at the Brooklyn Museum.
At some point, the pair encountered other officers who did not, apparently, believe them. A verbal tussle ensued, and turned violent as John Foy was shoved to the grass by officers, and both men were handcuffed.
Later, Williams and John Foy claimed that the incident never would have happened if they were white.
The NYPD did not respond to that allegation and did not provide details about the disciplinary action this week. The Daily News reported that Capt. Charles Girvan of the 68th Precinct — who had originally justified the detention of Williams and John Foy because he had been punched — was one of the two officers who received a permanent mark on his record and a possible loss of vacation time.
A third officer was reprimanded for not telling officers on the scene that Williams and John Foy had gotten permission to pass through the police barricade.
The vaccuum of official silence from the NYPD was filled by Deputy Inspector Roy Richter, the president of the Captain’s Endowment Association, who pushed back against Williams’s and John Foy’s complaints against the so-called New York’s Finest.
“This is about an elected official who was in a rush … and decided to use his position to get through a police barricade,” Richter said. “It is wrong that all these officers will now face discipline to appease some political purpose.”
Mayor Bloomberg also tried to get some “political” juice out of the incident, suggesting that Williams and the officers sit down for a “beer summit” modeled on President Obama’s session with black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and the white officer who arrested him —and now Williams said he’s open to the idea, with a few caveats.
“I don’t drink beer,” Williams said. “But as long as we can come with a bunch of young black and Latino males, I’m happy to do it.”Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg