The New York Civil Liberties Union has finally been granted access to NYPD reports (as well as reports from other police agencies in the state) that were previously sealed under a troubling interpretation of New York's Open Records Law. The revelations therein have been stunning, to say the least. Indeed, this new investigation has uncovered a trove of previously unknown cases of police brutality and excessive force in New York City-including multiple incidents of officers discharging firearms unnecessarily.
The City of New York has settled out of court with the family members of a woman who was shot and killed by an NYPD police sergeant. This payout is the direct result of an alleged case of excessive force in the Bronx. In 2016, a 66-year-old woman was shot and killed in the bedroom of her apartment after police responded to a disturbance call.
Late last month, the NYPD was called to an Ecuadorian restaurant in Sunset Park after a fight broke out during a viewing party for a boxing match. Police arrived and arrested two men for trashing at least part of the restaurant. However, one teenager involved in the fracas says that the NYPD officers involved roughed up a suspect and then used excessive force to subdue him when he tried to intervene on the victim's behalf. If true, these allegations would point to yet another alleged case of police brutality in New York City.
Another high profile case of excessive force in New York City may lead to the suspension or termination of a NYPD officer. After an investigation into the highly publicized arrest of ex tennis pro James Blake, the Civilian Complaint Review Board has determined that the arresting officer used excessive force when subduing Blake outside a Manhattan hotel last September.
Rikers Island has earned a bad reputation for excessive force in New York City including civil rights violations and the creation a "culture of prisoner abuse" over the years but the latest black eye for the jail complex stems from a bizarre incident in 2011. Barry Crawford, a Queens resident, was visiting a relative during regular visiting hours when he claims Rikers Island guards beat him.
A recent Supreme Court ruling could have a dramatic effect on current and future lawsuits regarding excessive force in New York City. The ruling clearly states that the written standards regarding what force is warranted and what is considered excessive are the only delineator required. In short, the ruling shoots down the defense of officers who claim special circumstances warranted force above and beyond what is normally considered appropriate.
Accidental discharge or excessive force in New York City? Last year, Akai Gurley, an unarmed 28-year old man, was fatally shot by NYPD officer Peter Liang. The shooting occurred in the stairwell of the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn. The NYPD just recently announced that Officer Liang had been indicted - a dramatic U-turn from their original ruling that the shooting was a tragic "accidental discharge." They have suspended Officer Liang without pay and taken his shield and gun for the duration of their investigation.
Recent high-profile cases have put the use of excessive force in New York City on the national stage once again. The unpunished chokehold death of an unarmed black man on Staten Island sparked protests, riots, and a media flurry this past year but chokeholds-and injuries associated with them-are not new. In fact, as the New York Times discovered, the NYPD has a long history of using (and some would say abusing) this controversial tactical response.
A Brooklyn man was recently awarded a $100,000 verdict as a result of a case of excessive force in New York City. 40-year old Rodger Rickettes was forcibly detained by two NYPD officers after walking between cars on the subway in Brooklyn. The officers in question pushed him to the ground and pepper sprayed him. Rickettes also suffered a broken finger as a result of the altercation. The court agreed with Rickettes and his attorney that at least one of the officers in question went too far, resulting in injuries that severely hampered the victim's ability to support himself financially.
Another fatal case of excessive force in New York has claimed the life of an innocent young man. Akai Gurley was shot and killed on November 20th in a dimly-lit stairwell in Brooklyn. The shooter was a rookie NYPD officer who claims he never meant to pull the trigger. Indeed, the police commissioner issued a statement saying the fatal shot was caused by an accidental discharge.