by William K. Rashbaum

“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.

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“When they first came upon the crowd, the judge said, he was immediately concerned for the officers and called 911.  After he made the call, he said, he saw that one of the officers—the one who he said later attacked him—was repeatedly dropping his knee into the handcuffed man’s back.

“His actions, the judge said, were inflaming the crowd, some of whom had been drinking. But among others who loudly expressed their concern, he said, was a woman who identified herself as a registered nurse; she was calling to the officer, warning that he could seriously hurt the unidentified man, who an official later said was not charged.

“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.

*  *  *  *

“Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said in an e-mail that all force complaints, whether they involve serious injuries or not, are referred to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct that does not rise to the level of a crime.  The department’s Internal Affairs Bureau investigates complaints of excessive force that involve serious injuries.

“‘In this instance,’ he said, Internal Affairs ‘is reviewing the complaint because it was brought to its attention by the judge, not because of the level of injury.‘”

A few thoughts on this:

1.  It’s infuriating that the New York Times generally ignores the issue of police misconduct in New York City—until the victim happens to be a sixty-nine year old, white judge.  When this happens to anybody else in the city it’s a total non-story.  The most depressing thing is that I am sure that if the victim had been, for example, a thirty year old, African-American carpenter, the comment boards would be full of people saying how implausible the story is:  that NY’s finest would never attack a man in public and without provocation.  I guess I should be glad that this sort of thing is finally getting some attention, but it is sad that it takes a victim like Justice Raffaele to earn it that.

2.  On a similar note to 1., why is the judge the only person in this story?  What about the person who was repeatedly kneed in the back while handcuffed, and subsequently not charged with any crime?  Shouldn’t we be similarly concerned about him?  Maybe he wasn’t an old, white, male judge . . . .

3.  The issue of the Internal Affairs investigation bothers me on a couple of levels.  First, in the same vein as my complaints above, why is it acceptable that Internal Affairs is only looking into this matter because the victim happened to be a judge?  Shouldn’t other victims of police abuse be given the same opportunity for remedy?  Second, the implication is that this case would normally be referred to the CCRB because it’s an “allegation[] of police misconduct that does not rise to the level of a crime.”  I’m fairly certain it remains illegal for police officers to attack innocent bystanders on public streets, even when they do interrupt an excessively forceful arrest of an innocent person.  Why has this officer not already been arraigned?

Update:  In a follow-up article, the Times has given at least some attention to the initial victim, Charles Memminger:  Justice Is Said to Identify Officer Accused of Hitting Him