Copwatch Blotter: Fall 2021


Photograph by Dennis Flores

You’ve probably heard many times that police don’t “make” the laws, they only “enforce” them. People, especially the cops themselves, even refer to police with the mendacious euphemism “law enforcement.” However, this, like almost everything cops claim about their job, is a lie. 

Aside from pushing for policies (like Broken Windows policing) that give themselves more power and resources (as well as spouting lies and propaganda to further roll back already-modest bail reform), police regularly ignore and break the laws that already exist. History tells them that they can literally get away with murder – so why not other rules?. The NYPD is a prime example of a police department that doesn’t give a damn about the law. The following are some examples, just over the last few weeks, of NYPD officers disregarding the law when it suits them.

Police Union Offices Raided

On the morning of October 5th, the FBI raided the Manhattan headquarters of the NYPD sergeants union, known as the Sergeants Benevolent Assocation (SBA), as well as the Long Island home of its notoriously racist and bigoted president, Ed Mullins. According to the New York Post, “high-ranking law enforcement officials said the agents were investigating the suspected misappropriation of union funds and seeking evidence of mail and wire fraud.” ABC News’ sources told them that the raid “concerns expense report irregularities” and that the “investigation is focused on Mullins himself and not the union.” 

Given that only a few hours after the raid Mullins resigned as head of the SBA, it is safe to assume that the feds have a strong case against him. For now, we will have to wait and see. Along with doxxing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter as well his support of former president Donald Trump and QAnon conspiracy theories, Mullins is also well known for his routine defense of racist police violence. 

Only a few days before the raid, Mullins sent a letter to SBA members urging them to go support NYPD Sergeant Hugh Barry, who killed 66-year-old Deborah Danner in her home in the Bronx in 2016, at his departmental trial. Last year, Mullins tweeted insults at Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders for their tweets about Walter Wallace Jr, who was killed by Philadelphia police in October of 2020. Mullins even justified the killing of Wallace by referring to him as a “career criminal.”

Mullins also recently faced two separate departmental trials, one for calling US Rep. Ritchie Torres a “first class whore” and former NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot a “bitch” and another for doxxing de Blasio’s daughter last year. And like a typical NYPD cop, Mullins got off light. He was docked 70 vacation days in total, which is equal to about $32,000 in pay. The CCRB had requested that he be fired, but of course, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who has the final say in how cops are disciplined, rejected that request, basically allowing Mullins to retire and thus keep the bulk of his benefits including about $100,000 in accrued pay.

Police Domestic Violence and Murder

Police and their supporters love to bring up shootings, murder, and domestic violence when they want to claim that the police are needed to keep people safe. But aside from ever-growing incidents of cops shooting and killing people and the stats on the prevalence of domestic violence among cops and their families, NYPD cop Yvonne Wu recently showed us, in extremely horrific and cold-blooded fashion, that cops have no problem committing those crimes. 

On October 13th, after weeks of stalking and harassing them, Wu took her NYPD-issued Glock 19 and shot her ex-girlfriend Jenny Li and killed Li’s new girlfriend Jamie Liang after sneaking into Li’s home in Brooklyn through the back door. During the 911 call, a woman, presumably Wu, was heard saying “I told you not to mess with me” while another woman pleaded “No please! No please!” Afterwards, Wu went outside of the home, calmly waited for cops to arrive, and then matter-of-factly stated “I shot them both. The gun’s inside. You can take me in,” before being arrested. Wu is currently suspended without pay and New York Attorney General Letitia James filed murder charges against her on October 17th.

Police Killing Cover-Up Finally Revealed

While lying under oath would get you or I thrown into a jail cell, cops have made lying a regular part of the job. There is even a common term for this: “testilying.” So it isn’t a shock that police officer Danny Acosta, from the NYPD’s infamous (and disbanded in name only) Anti-crime unit, got away with shooting a teen in the Bronx at point blank range 12 years ago and then lied about what happened for years

In October of 2009, Acosta and his partner, Laura Barbato, claimed that they chased 17-year-old Peter Colon up the stairs of the Bronx’s Gouverneur Morris Houses when Colon got into a struggle with Barbato and held a gun to her head. Acosta claimed that he then fired two shots from 10 feet away at Colon, hitting the teen in the lower back. It was all lies, and the media repeated the lies for years. It wasn’t until 2016, during a civil lawsuit, that an NYPD laboratory analysis report from the time of the shooting was finally released and proved that Colon was shot from close range. 

After that report was released, Acosta, believing he was protected under attorney-client privilege, admitted to the lawyer representing the city in that lawsuit that he had lied about the shooting because he knew it wouldn’t have been considered a “good shoot” and that he had shot Colon while kneeling on Colon’s back. Then in October 2018, Acosta was finally arrested for multiple instances of false testimony and put on paid suspension. The NYPD and the Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark kept all of this hidden from the public until March of this year when the New York Post reported on the court documents, finally revealing Acosta’s arrest and lies. 

Acosta was fired this past September, but NYPD didn’t publicize it, once again leaving it to the New York Post to uncover that he was no longer listed as an NYPD employee. Barbato, who also lied about the shooting, retired in 2020 and was never charged for her role in covering up Acosta’s lies.

The War on Drugs Continues

NYPD cops love drug laws when they can be used to inflict misery and suffering on Black and Brown people. After the New York Post put out a fearmongering article on October 24th on (mostly Black and Brown) people selling weed in Washington Square Park, the police department pledged to crack down in the park despite the fact that recreational marijuana was legalized in New York state earlier this year. Since licenses to distribute won’t be authorized until next year, selling weed is still technically illegal – a gap in the law that the NYPD has used to harass and ticket Black and Brown people for selling the now legalized plant. 

Cops themselves, however, have no problem with illegally using or selling drugs themselves. On October 13th, former NYPD cop John Cicero pleaded guilty to “distributing large quantities” of gamma-butyrolactone (also known as GBL) and methamphetamine from 2017 up until his February 2020 arrest in a Wall Street hotel room rented under a fake name. According to The Patch, Cicero admitted to being a “leader” in the “drug trafficking ring.” 

In a separate, previous case, Cicero pleaded guilty to beating a handcuffed man in the Bronx in 2010, but unsurprisingly never received any jail time for that assault. 

Sex Worker Hypocrisy

From encouraging community members to snitch on sex workers to demonizing them in the New York Post to raid after raid after raid (one of which killed Yang Song, a Chinese immigrant sex worker, in Queens in November 2017), sex workers and their clients have, for years, been the target of NYPD (specifically their notoriously corrupt Vice Squad’s) harassment and violence. And unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of people arrested by NYPD for buying or doing sex work are nonwhite. ​​A ProPublica data analysis published in December 2020 showed that, in the previous four years, 89% of the people charged with prostitution and 93% of those arrested for allegedly buying sex were nonwhite. Layleen Polanco, an Afro-Latina trans woman who died in solitary confinement at Rikers Island in June 2019, had been arrested in April 2019 for an assault charge but was held on $500 bail for drug and sex work charges from 2017. Thanks to a movement pushing to decriminalize sex work, the NYPD nowadays tries to downplay the arrests of sex workers and instead play up the arrests of clients and “traffickers.” But in reality, not much has changed, including the fact that cops still don’t give a damn about sex workers or even about the laws against sex work.

Disciplinary records released in October revealed that NYPD officers Thomas Diorio and Michael Sardone were caught driving sex workers to and from their appointments with clients on at least three separate occasions between April and May of 2021. It turns out that the sex workers and clients on those three occasions were undercover cops. An undercover cop, disguised as a sex worker, asked Sardone in April if he would be willing to drive her and her friends to clients since her regular driver was sick. Sardone, who was the subject of an unrelated investigation at the time, agreed and even brought along Diorio. The pair were paid at least $6,000 in all for rides. 

During one occasion, the undercover cop disguised as a sex worker told Sardone and Diorio that a client, who was also an undercover cop, refused to pay and asked them to make the client hand over the money, which they did. While Sardone and Diorio looked on, the cop disguised as a sex worker then told the cop disguised as a client that she was taking her “coke” back, grabbed baggies of what looked like cocaine, and then took them back to the car with Sardone and Diorio. The next day, Sardone told the undercover cop disguised as a sex worker that he and Diorio were still down to keep driving her to clients but that he preferred that there were no drugs involved “in case they were pulled over.” 

 While Diorio wasn’t fired until August, Sardone, who was once named “Cop of the Month” in 2015 and was once praised in a viral 2017 tweet for arresting a “marijuana dealer”, got to retire before his disciplinary hearing.

Looking The Other Way on Illegal Parking

On October 21st, Streetsblog published their analysis of over 26 million 311 complaints dating back to 2010 and found that NYPD routinely ignores complaints about driver misconduct. Earlier in the month, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and other Council members sent a letter to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea asking for records relating to 311 complaints about illegal parking that cops marked as resolved despite never even showing up to actually look at the illegal parking. The Council Members gave the cops until October 20th to hand over the records. Predictably, the NYPD ignored them just like they ignored the 311 complaints. 

On October 28th, Johnson announced that he would be subpoenaing the NYPD for the records. Meanwhile, the cops have been harassing and threatening a tipster who made complaints about the cops themselves illegally parking their cars in Downtown Brooklyn. Hours after Streetsblog published an article on October 18th about the tipster being harassed, cops sent even more threatening messages to the tipster, including one text that ominously read “Keep fucking around.” The Civilian Complaint Review Board and Mayor de Blasio have both promised to investigate the harassment, but given the CCRB and Mayor de Blasio’s weak history of holding the NYPD accountable, one should not expect too much from those investigations.

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