A year and a half after the Voice published a story, “Spinning Out of Control,” about him, NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne is finally stepping down. His last day will be August 19. Hurrah! Let’s take a look back at Browne’s sparkling record.
There was that spectacularly offensive Muslim horror film that the Voice‘s Tom Robbins reported was part of NYPD’s officer training program.
According to Browne, it was a “wacky movie” accidentally screened for department recruits “a couple of times when officers were filling out paperwork before the actual coursework began.” That clip of Ray Kelly? Oh, it was “from an old interview.”
It was later revealed, of course, that the film was not only shown to more than 1,400 officers … but Ray Kelly appeared in it at Browne’s personal recommendation.
Then there were the four separate lies the Voice‘s Harry Siegel caught Browne in mere months later:
On September 5, two black public officials at the West Indian Day Parade were bullied and handcuffed by police officers who refused to let them walk into a function at the Brooklyn Museum. Browne told reporters that the officers acted after “a crowd formed and an unknown individual punched a police captain on the scene.” He denied that the men had been arrested. One of the men, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams, called that account “a bald-faced lie” and mocked Browne’s “ghost puncher,” about whom nothing has been heard since.
Just off of the parade route, 56-year-old grandmother Denise Gay was caught in the crossfire as eight police officers traded fire with career criminal Leroy Webster. Browne initially told reporters that three witnesses, including Gay’s daughter, had told police that Webster or the man Webster had shot earlier had fired the fatal shot. But the daughter, Tashmaya Gay, denied having said that, telling the Post that “the cops killed my mother,” and “there’s no way in hell” the fatal bullet could have been fired by Webster.
A few days later, a plainclothes detective in Inwood arresting a suspected pot dealer shot and killed 43-year-old grandfather John Collado. According to Browne, the undercover officer had clearly identified himself, yet Collado, who belonged to a pro-cop Facebook group and wasn’t involved in the drug buy, nonetheless put the detective in a choke hold. “The cops who responded described [the detective] as barely conscious,” Browne said. “He was nearly choked out, and his limbs were numb.” But the family’s lawyer, Patrick Brackley, told reporters that he has seen surveillance video showing that the detective hadn’t identified himself, and that while Collado was trying to break up what he thought was just a fight between his neighbor and a stranger, he was not choking the detective.
Then, last week, the pepper spraying of nonviolent Occupy Wall Street protesters by Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna quickly became a national story–in large part because of Browne’s hotly disputed version of the events. Browne contended that the spray was used “sparingly” and “after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier–something that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video.” Other videos of the incident then surfaced and showed no such confrontation and no warning at all from Bologna and his using the spray again a few seconds later.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 19, 2013