When Law Enforcement Goes Too Far!
Civil Rights Litigation
Law enforcement officers, police, traffic agents, correction and probation officers, serve to protect public and deserve the public respect for often performing often difficult jobs. The popular press has recently focused on law enforcement abuses with the names of Louima, Diallo, and King becoming household names. The long silent brutality within the Nassau County Correctional Facility has also recently gained press attention with the brutal beating of Thomas Donovan Jr. with a frying pan which resulted in the conviction of former union leader, Salvatore Genelli.
Sanders, Sanders, Block, Woycik,Viener & Grossman has been representing the victims of overzealous law enforcement long before the topic became popular. We have successfully litigated and obtained awards from the Suffolk County Police, Suffolk County Department of Corrections, Nassau County Police, Nassau County Department of Corrections, State Parks' Police, New York State Department of Corrections and the New York City Department of Transportation Parking Control.
Bad apples can be found in all sectors of law enforcement and those rotten apples few impact the reputation of the heroic officers who serve and protect us all.
In the last year, we obtained $100,000 for a delivery man who was assaulted and knocked unconscious by a New York City Traffic Agent. Following a parking dispute, a $115,000 settlement was obtained for an inmate in an upstate correctional facility who ingested glass placed in his instant coffee by mail room guards who were retaliating against his mailroom reform efforts as the chairman of the Inmate Liaison Committee. A $25,000 settlement was obtained for a Nassau County Nurse, who was pulled over by a State Parks' Police Officer on Southern State Parkway and ticketed for failing to yield. The officer kept our client on the side of the road for over 30 minutes and failed to return her license. He proceeded to make harassing phone calls and sent letters to her employer. As a result of litigation. the officer was terminated. Apparently, he had been harassing women motorists for years and his supervisors were waiting for someone to file a formal claim. Additionally, we have obtained recoveries for numerous inmates who were denied prompt and proper medical care.
If you have any questions, about Civil Rights litigation, please contact Joseph Viener in our Mineola office. During Law School, Joe assisted the Chief of the Civil Rights Unit at the United States Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. Joe has headed our Civil Rights litigation since joining the firm in 1993.
TO AMELIORATE POLICE MISCONDUCT
IN NEW YORK STATE
Adopted on Saturday, February 12, 2000 at the
NEW YORK STATE-WIDE SUMMIT
ON POLICE BRUTALITY
Proposed by the six regional chapters and
regional offices of the New York Civil Liberties Union
WHEREAS , police misconduct continues to be a serious and substantial problem in New York State; and
WHEREAS , the overwhelming majority of police officers are good police officers, but there persists a small, yet significant percent of police officers who engage in excessive force, abuse of authority, discourteous and/or racial, religious, ethnic, and homophobic slurs; and
WHEREAS , many communities in New York State do not have a civilian review board (CRB); and
WHEREAS , in communities that do have a CRB, it does not always fulfill its intended goal, hampered in many instances by the blue wall of silence; and
WHEREAS , even when complaints are substantiated, police officers are either not disciplined or are inadequately disciplined; and
WHEREAS , the population of New York State is racially and ethnically diverse, but many police departments, particularly in their supervisory ranks, do not adequately reflect their community's diversity; and
WHEREAS , racial profiling is a persistent feature of police stops and arrests; and
WHEREAS , corruption, often linked to brutality, was effectively fought in the 1970's by Governor Rockefeller's Office of Special Prosecutor, abolished since 1990; and
WHEREAS , the tasks of a police officer are extremely demanding, dangerous and complicated, requiring an understanding of the law and the community as well as physical stamina and a sound psychological state of mind; and
THEN BE IT
RESOLVED , that we as a group of concerned New Yorkers gathering in the County of New York, on the 12 th of February 2000, at the City College of New York, Center for Worker Education, will return to our communities and promote the following goals through education, communication and legislative lobbying; and it is further
RESOLVED , that we will explore the creation of local CRBs; and it is further
RESOLVED , that we will support and strengthen existing local CRBs; and it is further
RESOLVED , that we will support the enactment of legislation to create CRBs statewide, and it is further
RESOLVED , that we will support the creation of a statewide Special Prosecutor to monitor police misconduct and corruption; and it is further
RESOLVED , that we will advocate for a residency requirement for police officers tied to an affirmative action plan where needed to better reflect the make-up of the police department compared to the community; and it is further
RESOLVED , that in order to improve the education and training of police officer recruits, the State of New York appoint a supervisor to review the faculty and curriculum of police academies statewide, and that the training period for police recruits be increased from six months to one year; and the police department implement continuing education programs; and it is further
RESOLVED , that police departments offer incentives for hiring, promotion and retention of police officers, and bonuses for the officers themselves, who are fluent in those languages spoken in the neighborhoods where they work; and it is further
RESOLVED , that where necessary, increased police pay, improved police facilities, and increased use of computers by Police Departments throughout New York State be undertaken to improve police morale; and it is further
RESOLVED , that the use of non-lethal weapons and appropriate training be mandated when appropriate in all police jurisdictions, particularly when dealing with Emotionally Disturbed Persons; and it is further
RESOLVED , that police departments be required to produce and make public via its internet web sites an annual performance report that includes disciplinary actions, policies, and practices related to police misconduct, and further, that these materials be made available on the precinct level, and that the data adequately reflect race, gender, and ethnicity of specific locales; and it is further
RESOLVED , that local police departments also produce racial statistics of all citizens stopped by the police, in order to determine or substantiate cases for racial profiling offenses by police departments; and it is further
RESOLVED , that New York State can and must do better in reducing police misconduct and improving police-community relations; and it is further
RESOLVED , that each group establishes specific goals and timetables to affect the points of this resolution.
A proposal for making the NYPD accountable to New Yorkers
The alleged beating and torture of Abner Louima at the 70th Precinct Station House in Flatbush, Brooklyn on August 9, 1997 drew much-needed attention to a city-wide problem the NYCLU has been working to ameliorate for a half a century: police brutality.
When the story broke, New Yorkers were shocked and outraged. In response to their strong reaction, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani established a Task Force on Police/Community Relations. Norman Siegel, Executive Director of the NYCLU, and two other members of the NYCLU Board of Directors (Margaret Fung and Michael Meyers) were asked to serve. While this Task Force had the potential to get to the core of the police brutality problem by conducting a comprehensive and systematic review of the NYPD, it was ultimately dismantled after being used as a public relations ploy.
However, the NYCLU did benefit greatly from the experience.
The NYCLU's participation on the Task Force provided us with an insider's point of view on how New York City's government operates. We gleaned information on the inner workings of the NYPD that helps us to better understand the roots of some of the systemic problems at the Police Department. We developed comprehensive recommendations for improving the NYPD. We identified avenues for future investigation of the NYPD. And, we found that there is a broad base of support among New Yorkers, residents and police officers alike, for reforming the NYPD. To continue to expand this support, the NYCLU has decided to launch a three-year, citywide, public education campaign for police accountability.
The objective of the Campaign is to educate New Yorkers about the problems of police misconduct and the specific recommendations that would establish a system of accountability for the actions of the individual members and the leadership of the NYPD.
To this end, the Campaign will seek to:
- Support and strengthen the Civilian Complaint Review Board -- the agency empowered to exercise oversight and control over the NYPD.
- Create a Special Prosecutor for police brutality and corruption.
- Eliminate the 48-hour rule whereby police officers are not required to speak to NYPD investigators for 48 hours after being identified as suspects.
- Advocate for a residency requirement tied to an affirmative action plan for police officers to improve police/community relations and increase the effectiveness of the NYPD.
- Improve the kind of training police officers receive at the academy, and in the precinct, to include discussions about race-relations and community-police relations.
- Create elected Police Community Advisory Boards to monitor police activity at the precinct level.
- Work with police officers to advocate for policy changes (e.g. police pay, improved facilities, and increased use of computers) that will improve police morale which will ultimately improve community-police relations.
This Campaign will organize and make presentations to community boards, community, civic, religious and professional groups, and editorial boards; establish a speakers' bureau, use mail, e-mail, the World Wide Web, newspapers, radio, cable, television advertising, and public art.
The Campaign to Stop Police Brutality will present the problems of police misconduct along with proposals that would make the NYPD accountable to the residents of New York City. We look forward to some of these proposals being adopted as laws of the city and state, while others could be more easily implemented as executive orders of either the Mayor or the Governor.
An Advisory Committee to the Campaign consists of a broad range of New Yorkers including:
-- Margaret Fung, Executive Director, Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund
-- Ron Daniels, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
-- Frank Serpico, former NYPD officer
-- Charles Billups, President of the Guardians Association
-- Anthony Miranda, President of the Latino Officers Association
-- Rev. Al Sharpton
-- Rabbi Judith Lewis
-- Vijay Bali, Executive Director, United Yellow Cab Association
-- Ron Kuby, Attorney
-- Vanessa Ramos, attorney
-- Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez
-- Mary Gaines, stepmother of Nathaniel Gaines.
The Campaign's staff includes: Norman Siegel, NYCLU Executive Director; Arthur Eisenberg, NYCLU Legal Director; Edward Borges, NYCLU Legislative Director; Christopher Johnson, Coordinator; Melissa Woods, Law Graduate; Bradley McCallum, Artist-in-Residence; and Laurel Benjamin, Project Assistant.
Source: New York Civil Liberties Union