New York City police officers already have quite the reputation for, to put it lightly, a certain level of insensitivity. We have recently covered the unpleasant consequences for well-meaning, educated citizens who try to prevent police brutality in the city.
In stories like the one above, it’s easy to see a possible racial motivation. But apparently some New York police officers are also colorblind in their aggression towards civilians.
Like when a cop allegedly decides to sock it to an elderly white man — who, oh yeah, just happens to be a state judge…
Thomas D. Raffaele, a 69-year-old justice of the New York State Supreme Court, encountered a chaotic scene while walking down a Queens street with a friend: Two uniformed police officers stood over a shirtless man lying facedown on the pavement. The man’s hands were cuffed behind his back and he was screaming. A crowd jeered at the officers.
The judge, concerned the crowd was becoming unruly, called 911 and reported that the officers needed help.
But within minutes, he said, one of the two officers became enraged — and the judge became his target. The officer screamed and cursed at the onlookers, some of whom were complaining about what they said was his violent treatment of the suspect, and then he focused on Justice Raffaele, who was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. The judge said the officer rushed forward and, using the upper edge of his hand, delivered a sharp blow to the judge’s throat that was like what he learned when he was trained in hand-to-hand combat in the Army.
What in tarnation was the officer thinking? Cops can’t just go around judo-chopping random bystanders, even in Queens. (If a single judo chop doesn’t sound particularly serious, remember that Judge Raffaele is just shy of 70 years old. So imagine your father getting throat-punched by a much younger, ostensibly physically fit law enforcement officer.) The incident is now under investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The officer (who is not named in the article) may have to learn a hard lesson, one that we have seen before (albeit not involving physical violence): you never know who you’re walking next to on the street. Even a major city can quickly turn into a small town. The trees have ears, and you never know who’s watching.
The saddest part about this story is that Judge Raffaele had no beef with the police before this all happened. When he showed up, he called 911 because he was concerned that the police needed more help — not the guy who was repeatedly getting a knee to the back. He was trying to watch out for the safety of the officers, even though a registered nurse at the scene was calling out that they might hurt the man on the ground (who, the Times reports, was never charged with a crime). Despite that, he was allegedly karate chopped, and it appears the police were less than helpful with his request to file a complaint:
Justice Raffaele said that after the officer struck him and he regained his composure, he asked another officer who was in charge and was directed to a sergeant, who, like the officer who hit him, was from the 115th Precinct. He told the sergeant that he wanted to make a complaint.
The sergeant, he said, stepped away and spoke briefly with some other officers — several of whom the judge said had witnessed their colleague strike him — and returned to tell the judge that none of them knew whom he was talking about. As the sergeant spoke to the other officers, the judge said, the officer who hit him was walking away.
At the hospital, he said, he saw another sergeant from the 115th Precinct, who took his complaint. He also telephoned the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau. He said he was interviewed on Friday by a lieutenant and a sergeant from a special unit in the bureau called Group 54, which investigates complaints of excessive force.
Despite what Judge Raffaele’s describes as his “profound respect” for the police, it sounds like they didn’t treat His Honor very honorably at all. This is like when you’re a kid, and you get to meet your favorite movie star or baseball player, and it turns out he is huge jerk and refuses to sign your baseball glove or CD (back when we still used CDs).
You can bet the 115th precinct won’t be hearing any nice words from the judge any time soon:
Asked whether he intended to sue, Justice Raffaele said, “At this point, no, I don’t.”
He added: “I do feel that it’s important for this person to be disciplined. I don’t know if he should be an officer or not — what he was doing was so violent.”
Maybe you could argue that the judge simply had a rude awakening to the realities of urban street justice, but even if that’s the case, was it worth it?
Ummm, how about no, Scott.
Judge Says He Was Struck by a Police Officer in Queens [New York Times]