Statement-taking by CCRB of Progress Queens publisher called off after private recording was denied

By LOUIS FLORES

A meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning between the publisher of Progress Queens and investigators from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the oversight disciplinary body that nominally reviews claims of misconduct against officers from the New York Police Department, was called off after investigators objected to the making of an audio recording of the meeting by the publisher of Progress Queens.

The meeting was agreed to in order to facilitate the taking of the statement by the publisher of Progress Queens in order for the oversight body, known as CCRB, to investigate a complaint filed with CCRB by the publisher of Progress Queens following a protest disrupted by NYPD officers outside a fundraiser held by the presidential campaign committee of former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The brief meeting took place in the interior garden of the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan. The officials representing the CCRB at the meeting were Investigators Andrew Bailyn and Jeffrey Mulinelli. The meeting lasted for a few minutes, because Investigator Mulinelli requested that the publisher of Progress Queens shut off an audio recording that was being made of the meeting. When the publisher of Progress Queens refused to comply, the investigators contacted their supervisor, CCRB Manager Joy Almeyda, for guidance. According to her instruction, the meeting was called-off, and the publisher of Progress Queens was provided with a contact telephone number for Manager Almeyda. 

The publisher of Progress Queens was informed that there was a rule against the making of private recordings of statement-takings, and the publisher of Progress Queens requested a copy of such rule, something the investigators were unable to provide. The CCRB investigators offered the publisher of Progress Queens the possibility of submitting a request under the State's Freedom of Information Law for a copy of the audio recording that would be officially made by the CCRB investigators ; however, the publisher of Progress Queens informed the CCRB investigators that he was very familiar with how much the City disregarded requests for public records, also known as FOIL requests.

A few hours after the meeting ended, the publisher of Progress Queens contacted Manager Almeyda at the telephone number that was provided. Manager Almeyda invoked the same rule against the making of recordings of statement-takings, namely, § 1-24(i) Conduct of Interviews, pointing out the rule's location on CCRB's Web site.

The publisher of Progress Queens expressed skepticism of the CCRB's independence to conduct an investigation into alleged NYPD misconduct, citing as an example how CCRB disappeared a prior complaint filed in 2012 by the publisher of Progress Queens. During a 2012 protest against former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Chelsea), an NYPD police officer shoved the publisher of Progress Queens whilst he was standing on a public sidewalk, losing the ability to take a quality photograph for journalism purposes of the then Speaker Quinn exiting a fundraising event. Despite the existence of a video recording of the NYPD officer's use of force against the publisher of Progress Queens and the subject matter of the 2012 complaint having been noted in a report published by The Wall Street Journal, CCRB at that time then referred that complaint to the Office of the Chief of Department of the NYPD, where the complaint was closed soon thereafter with involvement from then NYPD Capt. Jack Jaskaran and then NYPD Deputy Inspector Elisa Cokkinos without any notice provided to the publisher of Progress Queens. 

When the publisher of Progress Queens raised some of these issues as evidence of skepticism of CCRB's independence, Manager Almeyda defended the CCRB's actions, because, she said, the CCRB was going to this time investigate the subject matter of the 2016 complaint filed by the publisher of Progress Queens. In any event, Manager Almeyda also extended an offer for the publisher of Progress Queens to submit a FOIL request for a copy of the audio recording of the statement-taking that would be officially made by CCRB investigators.

Past experience with FOIL requests filed by the publisher of Progress Queens included an attempt made late in 2012 to obtain his NYPD file, but that FOIL request was eventually denied by the NYPD.

During the 31 May 2016 protest against former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Lt. Catechis from the NYPD's Counterterrorism unit pushed the publisher of Progress Queens. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens/YouTube/Screen Shot

During the 31 May 2016 protest against former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Lt. Catechis from the NYPD's Counterterrorism unit pushed the publisher of Progress Queens. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens/YouTube/Screen Shot

The subject matter of the 2016 complaint is substantively similar to the subject matter of the 2012 complaint, because at the 31 May 2016 protest outside the fundraiser benefiting former First Lady Clinton, an NYPD officer similarly pushed the publisher of Progress Queens, threatening him with arrest if the publisher of Progress Queens did not move, making the publisher of Progress Queens lose a lucrative spot on a public sidewalk from which the publisher of Progress Queens was seeking to make a recording of former First Lady Clinton's exit from the fundraiser. As with the 2012 protest, a video recording documented some of the NYPD misconduct at the 2016 protest.

During their telephone conference, the publisher of Progress Queens informed Manager Almeyda that he had referred his complaint filed with CCRB to the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district, which is already reportedly conducting a wide-ranging, Federal investigation of the NYPD for misconduct and corruption. Before the publisher of Progress Queens ended his call with Manager Almeyda, she expressed concern that that Federal referral might lead to an investigation of CCRB and not just a probe of police misconduct.

In the past, other individuals have raised First Amendment concerns about how NYPD officers have intentionally interfered with the peaceful and Constitutionally-protected activities of protesters or journalists. Despite complaints filed with CCRB about these concerns, CCRB has generally expressed reluctance to hold NYPD officers accountable for their misconduct. Some of these concerns have included accusations of retaliation by NYPD officers against activists for having been outspoken, a charge made by the blogger and YouTube political commentator, Suzannah B. Troy. After Ms. Troy made online accusations that some NYPD officers had engaged in misconduct, with some NYPD officers also allegedly participating in corruption, Ms. Troy was trolled online, and one anonymous comment appeared on one of her YouTube accounts that described Ms. Troy as a "confrontative c-nt."

After CCRB and the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau failed to adequately investigate the complaints filed by Ms. Troy in which she alleged acts of NYPD misconduct and possible corruption, Ms. Troy was forced to commence litigation against the City of New York in an effort to effect accountability.

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