New York's Finest Police Cover-Up

Ten cops beat up cabbie, then cuff one of their own for trying to stop them.

In April 2009, Acosta wrote a memo to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, asking him to order his disciplinary case accelerated. He had decided to retire, and work again for a private security company in either Iraq or Afghanistan. But he couldn't retire with a disciplinary case hanging over his head.

"I took police action and came to the assistance of the cab driver," he wrote Kelly. "I was then wrongfully attacked, assaulted, and handcuffed. Then, to add insult to injury, I was placed on modified assignment."

Acosta also told Kelly that a captain hadn't done a thing to stop the incident: "There was a captain, a lieutenant, a few sergeants, and police officers present, but I was the only one who acted properly by preventing the further assault on the civilian. . . . Sir, my whole career I have been a good and hard-working cop, and I have had my ups and downs, but I have always been honest, motivated, and behaved in the best interest of the department."

Decorated sergeant Anthony Acosta did the right thing&emdash;and was punished for it.
Samuel Zide
Decorated sergeant Anthony Acosta did the right thing&emdash;and was punished for it.
Riot squad: Outside the Vudu Lounge, on 78th and First, where rookie cops beat up a cabbie
Samuel Zide
Riot squad: Outside the Vudu Lounge, on 78th and First, where rookie cops beat up a cabbie

Details

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The NYPD Tapes, Part 4
The WhistleBlower, Adrian Schoolcraft

The NYPD Tapes, Part 5
The Corroboration

Follow continuing coverage of the NYPD Tapes here at our Runnin' Scared blog.

Kelly did not respond to the letter.

In May 2009, Acosta wrote the Deputy Commissioner of Trials to allege once again that Captain Pla had failed to take action in preventing the incident, and ask for a more thorough investigation.

That month, he also wrote to the First Deputy Commissioner, alleging that the department's 49, or official report, on the incident was "wildly inaccurate." He described himself as a "sergeant who has spent his entire career on the streets in plainclothes, thousands of times proving and demonstrating the behavior of an officer who has brought honor to the department."

"Without hesitation, I went to the aid of a citizen of the City of New York who was being assaulted—and not by hiding and running away, as Captain Pla and those under his command did," he wrote. The message of the case is that "anyone that is off-duty and sees someone being beaten up by eight individuals should not get involved."

In August 2009, he wrote the commander of the personnel department to ask to be restored to full duty, and again asked the department to accelerate the pace of his case.

That didn't happen, and another year passed without resolution. Acosta continued to sit behind a desk in the 30th Precinct stationhouse, but he was a productive cop. He continued to debrief accused criminals and file intelligence reports—a fairly challenging and coveted job in the Police Department.

After many stops and starts, his departmental trial began in June 2010. But the NYPD kept postponing dates, so it dragged out even longer.

On September 29, a few days after a Voice reporter sat in on Acosta's hearing in the trial room and pressed a department attorney on why such a decorated officer had been put through so much over something so minor, the department abruptly notified Acosta that he was being returned to full duty.

Sergeant Acosta has his gun and shield back. He was a step closer to emerging from his gulag.

But that decision, after two long years, seemed just as opaque and capricious as the decision to charge him in the first place. Richard Murray, Acosta's lawyer, declined to comment. The charges against Acosta are still pending. The case is back on the calendar on November 5. It may stretch into 2011.

grayman@villagevoice.com

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