NYPD Officer Admits He Taunted Teen
MANHATTAN (CN) - A veteran NYPD officer testified Wednesday that he told a 13-year-old boy sitting in the back of his unmarked car to "stop crying like a little girl," after he stopped, frisked and handcuffed the teenager.
Officer Brian Dennis, a thin, balding man with gray hair, defended his actions as the second week began in a trial seeking reform of New York City Police Department's stop, question and frisk policy.
The class action, originally filed by four black men who say they were stopped without reasonable suspicion, seeks to put the NYPD under court-ordered monitoring to curb racial profiling.
Devin Almonor, a 13-year-old from Harlem, joined the lawsuit after police detained him on March 20, 2010.
Dennis, who arrested him, testified Wednesday that he was responding to a flurry of 911 calls that night complaining about a brawl of young black men near the Hamilton Houses in Manhattan.
None of the radio reports gave any further description of the suspects, Dennis said.
He said he spotted the teenager - a young, black male - glancing repeatedly at his car, touching his waistband and walking "briskly" away from the housing projects.
Based on that, Dennis said, he later checked off the categories "fits description" and "furtive movements" on a UF-250, the form used to record street stops.
He marked the reason for the stop as suspicion of "CPW": criminal possession of a weapon.
Dennis, who has nearly 20 years on the NYPD, said he handcuffed Almonor, moved him over the hood of his unmarked car, and frisked him for a gun.
The teenager protested: "What are you doing? I'm going home. I'm a kid," Dennis recounted.
No weapon was found, but Dennis put Almonor in the back of his car and drove to the 30th Precinct. The boy started to cry during the trip.
"Stop crying like a little girl," Dennis acknowledged telling the boy.
Under cross-examination, he agreed that the remark was inappropriate.
Dennis claimed he held the teen on a statute preventing police from releasing detained minors without their parents' permission, and said he could not write a summons for someone younger than 16.
Almonor eventually was released without charges.
Dennis later elaborated on his rationale for the stop on the NYPD's computer system, claiming here for the first time that Almonor had a "suspicious bulge."
He acknowledged on the witness stand, however, that there was no bulge.
Later that day, his supervisor, Lt. Jonathan Korabel, justified the stop by claiming that the boy was jaywalking.
This rationale is not reflected in the paperwork either. The parties agreed that Almonor and the police car arrived at the corner at the same time.
Korabel testified that he could not remember ever having arrested someone for jaywalking.
Also Wednesday, plaintiffs' attorneys revealed that they learned that the NYPD started implementing some of the reforms demanded shortly before trial began.
Just before the trial began, Darius Charney with the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a 29-page "remedy brief" describing what meaningful oversight would look like.
Though it emphasized the need for court-ordered monitors, one section of Charney's brief called for changes to the UF-250 form, which officers must fill out after every stop.
Officially, the NYPD encourages officers to give detailed reasons for stopping suspects, but critics say this advice is never followed because police are rarely questioned about their compliance with the Constitution.
Charney's brief, filed on March 4, demanded that officers include a narrative for each stop, with a photocopied page of their memo books to increase accountability.
On March 5, NYPD Chief of Patrol James Hall issued a directive with both of these reforms.
Charney moved to enter Hall's directive into evidence on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who is hearing the case without a jury, indicated that she would accept it if Hall or another witness who can authenticate it takes the stand.
At a press conference, Charney slammed the directive as "gamesmanship" designed to fend off reform.
Plaintiff's co-counsel, Jonathan Moore, added, "It's really an admission that what they've been doing was wrong."
Meanwhile, state Sen. Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn, postponed his testimony amid wrangling at the state Senate, where budget negotiations were planned to go late into the night. It is unclear whether he will be available to testify today (Thursday).