When law enforcement officials feel they have the authority to savagely assault a man based solely on the suspicion that he might be trespassing, then it’s probably time to rein them in.
That’s precisely the level of judgment 20-year-old Anthony Jones alleges Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department officers used when they brutally assaulted him without provocation–landing him handcuffed to a hospital bed for five days with fractured ribs, broken teeth and punctured lungs.
Jones’s lawyer, Michael Lamansoff, says the island ultimately needs some real cops. It currently deploys its own safety force comprised of state certified “peace” officers who posses a similar amount of authority as NYPD officers.
“They’re given similar authority as the police without any accountability. They can arrest. They can detain. They can use mace…Some can actually carry weapons,” Lamansoff tells the Voice. “The long-term solution would be to bring in the NYPD or state police.”
While Lamansoff recognizes that the prospect of a true police force is a faint possibility, He does believe that some kind of oversight akin to an Internal Affairs Bureau or the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board should be used to oversee RIPSD officers. The officers are currently only overseen by the Roosevelt Island Operating Committee Board of Directors–which Lamansoff says is not enough to check the department’s abuses.
Considering the NYPD appears to be the preferred option and model for handling police brutality in this situation, there’s probably a real problem with the RIPSD operation. Lamansoff says that his office alone recently filed three notices of complaint about incidents similar to the Jones case.
Jones alleges that while he was waiting outside of a Roosevelt Island apartment complex for a friend, a crew of officers rushed him without explanation and ordered him to the ground. After Jones complied without resistance to the order, he was allegedly maced, punched, kicked, handcuffed, and then taken into detention at RIPSD headquarters.
After many complaints from Jones about his health, he was taken to a Queens hospital where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He then had to be transferred to another hospital where it was discovered that he was suffering from internal bleeding from a pierced lung, according to a Daily News report.
Jones was never charged with a crime. Lamansoff says the department is now trying to cover its tracks by retroactively claiming that the officers suspected that Jones was trespassing.
It appears that the officers have a long-standing reputation for displaying abusive behavior. In fact, Residents showed up to an RIOC meeting on public safety Wednesday to talk about some of the ugly run-ins they and their children have had with over-reaching RIPSD officers.
“I’ve lived on this island for thirty years, I grew up on this island myself, and I’ve seen it go through phases where public saftey gets out of hand and then they have to be reeled in again,” one resident said. “This is one of those times when I really think they’re getting out of hand, and something has to be done”
Jones family went to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office today to formally request the criminal prosecution of the officers, according to Lamansoff. The RIPSD declined to comment on the incident.