A few weeks ago, I met some friends for dinner while commuting home from the Crown Heights high school where I teach, and as I locked my bike outside Press 195 in Park Slope, I heard a driver yelling at me. He was in a typical limo-service car and I figured he was a cab driver. He was irate, yelling: “Yo asshole, listen the fuck up!”Not needing a cab, I figured he wasn’t speaking to me.
When I turned back around the man was walking quickly towards me yelling: “Motherfucker! You stop when I’m talking to you. You went through a red light!”I apologized, even though I didn’t recall going through any red lights. He asked, “Why the fuck are you biking?!” “It’s how I get to work,”I said. He kept asking similar questions and yelled at me to come over to his car. He still hadn’t identified himself as a police officer, but as I stepped away from my bike towards his car and he asked for my ID, I realized he was a cop. I told him my wallet was in my bike bag, but he told me not to “fucking move”and without warning grabbed and twisted my arm, cuffed me, and slammed my head and chest against his car. He called for back-up and before I knew it three more officers were on top of me. One stepped on my foot and told me to walk, while another pushed me forward so I would fall, which I did. My friends and people from nearby restaurants watched and filmed the incident despite the officers’ demands that they shut off their cameras.
I was taken to the local precinct on 6th Avenue and Flatbush, and while they checked me in, one officer thought I was looking at his badge and said, “You want to look at my fucking badge?! Spread your legs!”I complied, and as he “patted”me down (for the fourth time), he grabbed me between the legs and squeezed. Humiliated, I remained silent while the other officers laughed. I was put into a cell from 7-11:30pm, when the arresting officer came to fingerprint me. He grabbed my hand, sprayed Windex on it and slammed it against the machine, bruising my fingers. I calmly asked him not to touch me this way, but he pushed me back into the cell and told me he could keep me there as long as he liked, and that he was looking forward to the overtime pay. He returned two hours later telling me there was a two-year warrant out for my arrest. As a New York City teacher for the past five years, I doubted this, but it was enough to keep me until 4pm the following day. My wife and I retained Alain V. Massena as our attorney and that afternoon in court the judge pursuant to my attorney’s request immediately dismissed the “warrant.” However, I was still charged with resisting arrest and disorderly contact. The witness statements and the video clearly disprove these accusations, and my attorney has advised me that in seeking justice we will vigorously pursue an outright dismissal of these charges.
This situation is dis-empowering to say the least. Money is one thing, but taking me away from my students is another, and the officers’ behavior is scary to comprehend. I ask that all community members—cyclists, pedestrians and drivers—be alert for such abuses of power. No one deserves to be treated this way.