Police Oversight Group Says Bratton 'Co-Opted' Its Footage of Police Brutality

Activist Dennis Flores holds a "Fire Bratton" sign for reporters: "Never once has he communicated to the people of Sunset Park."
Activist Dennis Flores holds a "Fire Bratton" sign for reporters: "Never once has he communicated to the people of Sunset Park."
Katie Toth

After Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Benjamin Tucker as his second-in-command yesterday, he said the retired NYPD officer was "almost a perfect match to everything we're being asked to address in the department at this particular time."

But some of Bratton's growing number of critics say they aren't satisfied with what they consider a token position. They say Bratton's using tough rhetoric about bad-apple cops -- but that the commissioner isn't actually putting an end to brutality.

"For communities of color, the issue is how we are treated," says Josmar Trujillo, an activist and and organizer with New Yorkers Against Bratton, an ad hoc group that has lobbied against the city's top cop since he was picked by Mayor Bill de Blasio shortly after his election last year. "Not the musical chairs going on at One Police Plaza."

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Trujillo was one of six members of New Yorkers Against Bratton who rallied in front of One Police Plaza on Wednesday morning, carrying "Fire Bratton" signs and demanding the commissioner be fired because of his "broken windows" vision of policing.

Dennis Flores, of the cop-watch group El Grito de Sunset Park, attended the protest and tells the Voice that his group recently held a town hall meeting at which footage was shown that depicted instances of police abuse against a pregnant woman named Sandra Amezquita and a fruit vendor named Jonathan Daza. At the meeting was then-NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks, at the time the highest-ranking black officer in the department. Banks was expected to accept the role later accepted by Tucker, but abruptly resigned on October 31. At the meeting, Flores says, Banks seemed sympathetic to the group's concerns.

"We were calling for Bratton to be fired," Flores says. "Chief Banks...promised to get rid of these corrupt cops. We asked him to come to our town hall and he did."

According to reports, Philips resigned because he was unhappy that he wouldn't get the expanded powers he was expecting.

Tucker, 63, retired from the force in 1991 and went on to do government work. He was chosen by President Obama to head up the National Drug Control Policy's office of State, Local and Tribal Affairs. And he was asked to retrain the city's police department after the death of Eric Garner this July.

Bratton later used the same video footage shown by Flores's group at a publicized executive meeting with hundreds of other cops. Bratton called the officers in the video "brutal," saying they did "not belong" on the force.

"He used our videos and said, 'This is racist,' but he's never once communicated to the people of Sunset Park," says Flores. "These cops are back on the streets. None of them have been indicted. None have been charged. How is he weeding out the cops he used as examples? Nothing's happened."

The officer who hit Daza was suspended and stripped of his badge, Gothamist reported. Flores says the officer who hit Amezquita received "modified duty without pay."

The NYPD did not respond to requests to confirm how the officers were disciplined.

Over the past months, Bratton has promised to weed out bad cops and put a stop to police brutality. But he's vigorously defended the NYPD's tough approach to quality-of-life crimes like subway dancing and selling loose cigarettes.

"The notion that policing is racially proportionate is absurd, completely absurd," Bratton said in October at a law enforcement forum held by the Manhattan Institute. "What is lost on the part of the advocates going forward is the victims, who are also disproportionately minority."

The protesters argued that small situations can escalate and become violent when people get arrested for petty offenses. And they say some people get police attention -- while others are ignored.

"If we really want to be ticky-tacky about it, some of these reporters are going to jaywalk on their way from City Hall," said Trujillo to about 15 reporters. "That's not the kind of policing this city deserves."

Send news tips to ktoth@villagevoice.com Follow @kat_toth on Twitter


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