Copwatch Blotter: July 2022

Eric Adams claimed that he and the NYPD would clamp down on the use of fake license plates and gun violence. But news from July shows that NYPD cops themselves often perpetrate those crimes.

Eric Adams appeared alongside Joe Biden at a Gun Violence Prevention Task Force meeting at NYPD HQ in February. (The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Eric Adams loves to pretend that he and the police state he supports are the solution to allegedly out-of-control crime in New York City. According to Adams, the NYPD is on the streets fighting back against a tsunami of violence and theft in order to keep the public safe. A cursory look at the news in July shows this to be absolute drivel.

A recent report in Bloomberg showed that this perception of New York City being in the midst of an unprecedented surge in crime is mostly a distortion of mainstream media. “Incidents of violent crime remain at historic lows in New York City,” according to the report. What has surged is corporate media’s sensationalized, out-of-control coverage of crime.

This has, in turn, led to a widespread misperception that the city is more dangerous than ever. The report also found that dramatic increases in sensationalized coverage of violent crime happened right after the launch of Eric Adams’ mayoral campaign and right after he finally took office. As the Bloomberg report notes, corporate media “followed Adams’s lead.”

In fact, if Adams were actually interested in stopping gun violence or theft, he’d have to start cracking down on his fellow cops.

On July 5, Adams held a press conference in Queens alongside NYPD Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey and NYPD Chief of Transportation Kim Royster where he vowed to crack down on people who use fake or obscured license plates to avoid tolls. When asked what differentiates his crackdown on fake plates from similar crackdowns of the recent past, Adams, in his typical egomaniacal and obnoxious style, stated that the “sole thing that’s different from those who were talking about it before and those who are talking about it now is, Eric Adams is the mayor now.”

The very next day, WNYC transportation reporter Stephen Nessen witnessed New York state police refusing to ticket a van with an obscured license plate because the van was driven by an allegedly “undercover” NYPD cop. And not only did this cop have a license plate covered with a blue surgical mask (which is seemingly the only time NYPD cops ever use masks), the vehicle’s registration sticker was expired, and there was an expired NYPD placard on the dashboard. Streetsblog NYC reporter Julianne Cuba also noted that the plate associated with the van had received 136 tickets for speeding in school zones and 16 for running red lights since March 2019, according to How’s My Driving. All that happened is that the cop merely removed the mask from his license plate, got back in his van, and waved to Nessen as he drove away.

As that cop’s brazen attitude showed, cops very often get away with this kind of crime. What’s unusual is when they actually get ticketed or arrested for it. Within one week in late July, two NYPD cops from Staten Island managed to do the near-impossible and got arrested for using fake license plates in order to avoid tolls. On July 27, NYPD Sgt. Adrian Dejesus got bagged while off-duty for two charges for possession of a forged instrument and falsifying business records. The next day, NYPD cop Joseph Marino got cuffed while off-duty for putting fake license plates on his 2021 white Mercedes-Benz SUV. He was charged with 11 counts of second-degree possession of a forged instrument and 12 counts of petit larceny. But again, for every cop who actually gets ticketed or arrested for using fake or obscured plates, there are many more who get away with it. Meanwhile, the NYPD will go on Twitter and brag about targeting regular people in the Bronx, seizing vehicles, and handing out tickets for the very same crime – all while claiming to be “addressing quality of life concerns.”

It’s no different with gun violence. Adams has often claimed that he and the NYPD are targeting “trigger-pullers.”

“We will not surrender our city to the violent few,” Adams said when he released his so-called “blueprint to end gun violence in New York” in January. “We’re going to get trigger pullers off these streets and guns out of their hands.” But of course, for Adams, his fellow cops never count as “the violent few” or as “trigger pullers.”

Rinaldo Laviolette, a 27-year-old restaurant worker, experienced firsthand how quickly NYPD cops get violent and pull the trigger. In March, Laviolette went to a birthday party at a friend’s house in Long Island. He’d been drinking and accidentally grabbed another person’s phone and wallet instead of his own when he left. He realized his mistake and started heading back to his friend’s house to return the phone and wallet. When Laviolette went to a house that he mistook for his friend’s house, he tried to open the door. Unfortunately for Laviolette, the house belonged to NYPD detective Douglas DeOtto, who got the perfect chance to live out every racist, right-wing gun-owner’s fantasy of shooting a Black man who he thought was breaking into his home.

DeOtto opened his door and quickly shot Laviolette in the face. DeOtto claimed he shot a burglar. Suffolk police and local NYC media simply took DeOtto’s claim as fact and initially claimed that DeOtto had shot someone who was breaking into his home. Fortunately, despite losing vision in his right eye, receiving brain damage, and needing a titanium plate put in his head, Laviolette lived and was able to later tell his side of the story. On July 22, Laviolette filed a $35 million federal lawsuit against DeOtto, the city of New York, and the NYPD, saying that DeOtto had no justification for immediately using deadly force.

There was more Cops Gone Wild action as police rage took to the road. On July 23, NYPD cop Douglas Debonet was off-duty while driving in Long Island and got enraged when a 24-year-old Black man simply “made a turn on a narrow part of the road, forcing Debonet, who was going in the opposite direction, to slow down.” Debonet then followed the young man until they got to a red light, got out of his car, banged on the young man’s window and door, punched and broke the passenger’s side rear-view mirror, then got back in his car and sped away. Debonet’s violent rampage didn’t end there though.

Later that day, Debonet went to the young man’s family’s house (located only 3 or 4 houses away from Debonet) and threatened and pointed a gun at the man’s father while saying “You want to do this? I’m a police officer! I’m a police officer!” Debonet was later arrested by Suffolk police and released without bail. The family now plans on filing a $20 million lawsuit against the City of New York, the NYPD, and Debonet. Neither Adams nor the Police Benevolent Association commented on a violent, gun-wielding NYPD cop getting arrested and released without bail for threatening the only Black family on his block.

On July 29, rookie NYPD cop Miguel Torres (who decided to join the NYPD only months after the nationwide uprisings in 2020) was also arrested in Long Island and charged with menacing and use of a dangerous weapon. Torres got into an argument with his girlfriend at around 1:47am and decided to take out his gun and fire two shots into the air in the middle of a street. Torres the trigger-puller was suspended without pay after his arrest.

Along with officers threatening and harming people with guns, the NYPD’s penchant for destruction spreads to the environment through their shooting range in the Rodman’s Neck part of the Bronx. The department’s shooting range, which a few years ago received a $275 million dollar facelift, not only serenades locals with noise from guns and bombs going off even up until midnight, the soil and water in the area have been contaminated with lead. Bronx residents have complained about this pollution for years, and now a local New York State Assemblymember is finally proposing legislation to regulate the noise & to test the area for contaminants.

Mayor Adams, who campaigned as a police whistleblower, has yet to comment on any of these police incidents from this past month or on the noise and soil pollution in the Bronx.

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