Dirty Little Secrets in NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau

Witch hunts, injustice, and just plain incompetence in the secretive police-department-within-a-department

Varney's attorney, Joel Berger, says he's concerned that the case has run aground mainly because three different prosecutors have been assigned to the case, but none of them will return his or Varney's phone calls.

"Suffolk seems to be dragging its feet on the case," Berger says. "Either they aren't interested or maybe Internal Affairs is giving them a hard time. It would be one thing if the cops didn't believe her, but she impresses me as a total innocent. They believed her. So why—suddenly—aren't the prosecutors believing her?"

Varney says she filed a series of complaints with the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau about officers at the precinct, including Ellington. She has had no indication that IAB has done anything about those complaints.

Filing a lawsuit as "John Doe," a gay detective in IAB says he is constantly harassed.
C.S. Muncy
Filing a lawsuit as "John Doe," a gay detective in IAB says he is constantly harassed.
Persecution complex: The Internal Affairs Bureau at 315 Hudson Street
Ashlei Quinones
Persecution complex: The Internal Affairs Bureau at 315 Hudson Street

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Internal Affairs, Berger says, doesn't seem to have looked seriously into any of the complaints his client filed. "With IAB, you just never know what's happening," he says. "In the NYPD, it seems that who you know is more important than what you did."

He filed a notice of claim on Varney's behalf in February.

Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney, did not respond to Voice e-mails requesting comment. Mary Skiber, the prosecutor currently assigned to the case, also did not return Voice e-mails.

Ellington is facing another lawsuit for falsely arresting one of Varney's neighbors, Gerardo Mayol, who then suffered a stroke in custody that left him with slurred speech and an unsteady gait.

Mayol claims he was about to testify against Varney in an eviction case brought by their landlord. He claims she got Ellington to send police officers to arrest him on a stalking charge. He claims Ellington threatened to "put my fucking foot up your ass," the lawsuit alleges.

Mayol says he subsequently fell ill, but no ambulance was called until he keeled over from the stroke. He spent 20 days in the hospital. When he returned to his apartment, Ellington visited several times, banging on his door and threatening to arrest him. Mayol's arrest was dismissed.

The lawsuit claims that both Ellington and a "Lieutenant John Doe #1" "were involved in a furtive relationship with Varney." The lawsuit alleges the two officers have "shown themselves to be morally unfit to hold such important and powerful positions in our society."

Varney, for her part, claims that Mayol was harassing her over a period of months. Berger says that she will be dismissed as a plaintiff under the rules for court deadlines.

Mayol is suing Ellington, four other NYPD officers, and Varney for $540 million. Mayol's lawyer, Brian King, has alleged in court documents that the city is dragging its feet in the case, and is demanding a default ruling from the court.

The city has denied the allegations and has asked the judge to delay proceedings until the completion of the Internal Affairs investigation. Earlier this month, a judge agreed to stay the case, but the NYPD Department Advocate's Office has filed preliminary charges against Ellington.

"The Mayol incident occurred in February 2009, and his lawyer filed a notice of claim on May 1, 2009, so Ellington was probably on IAB's radar screen at the time he allegedly pulled his gun on Varney in September 2009," Berger says. "How could a guy like Ellington have gotten away with so much for so long? Who does he know in IAB or elsewhere in the NYPD who has protected him?"

If the mystery in the Ellington case is why IAB took so long to act against him, for Detective Michael DePaolis, the mystery is why IAB acted at all.

For the past six years, DePaolis, an 18-year veteran of the NYPD from Staten Island, has been marooned in a unit where officers spend all day sitting at desks and watching video screens. He gets paid close to $100,000 a year to do that.

DePaolis, however, is on full duty, unlike every other officer in Viper Four, a unit that is mainly staffed by officers on desk assignment with open disciplinary cases. The Viper Four unit monitors video cameras in public-housing developments in Lower Manhattan—and the NYPD also trains cameras on Viper Four to make sure the officers don't wander away from those screens.

DePaolis says the Viper office is dirty, dark, and ridden with rats and mice. He acknowledges that he has struggled with cancer and has bouts of chronic fatigue syndrome, but he has been cleared to work full duty.

Even stranger, he has been repeatedly instructed not to take police action, even when he sees a crime take place right in front of him. He has actually received reprimands for taking action, including responding to a stabbing and an assault.

DePaolis tells the Voice that he desperately wants to return to a detective squad and work cases. So far, no one in the NYPD is listening. "Even if you see someone being raped, you can't do anything," he says. "You can't go anywhere. You can't 'do a great job' and be advantageously transferred. You have a scarlet letter on your head."

So why is he in such limbo? DePaolis says he dared to go outside the department to complain about the way he was treated in a disciplinary case. He made a complaint to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the moderately effective oversight body that has a $10 million annual budget to oversee more than 6,000 complaints a year from New Yorkers. The NYPD budget is more than $4 billion.

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