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NYC Taxpayers Clean Up Yet Another Mess Created by Cops

And more news for your Tuesday.

9:31 AM EDT on March 21, 2023

Trash and recycling bags line a sidewalk.

(Hell Gate)

In July 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Long Island City resident Anshuman Bhatia was arrested and detained by Department of Homeless Service police officers after he attempted to take photographs of them not complying with City mask regulations. Bhatia, who was merely exercising his constitutional rights, rights which were doubly reaffirmed and codified in both City and state law only the month prior, was handcuffed to a bench, his body and possessions searched, and charged with harassment. In charging Bhatia, officer Joseph Coye falsely claimed that Bhatia had "shout[ed] profanities" and "engag[ed] in threatening behavior" and that Bhatia had told him, "Fuck you wear your mask I hate Trump fuck you." (Bhatia had done none of these things, according to video taken while he was detained.)

In the fall of 2021, Bhatia filed a federal lawsuit against the City and all three officers involved—Coye, Ian Bourne, and Robert Diaz—alleging that his constitutional and civil rights were violated. 

Hell Gate is the first to report that late last week, Bhatia's federal case reached a settlement agreement in which the City does not have to admit any wrongdoing or that the officers violated his rights, but will pay Bhatia $36,000. As part of the settlement agreement, each of the officers involved will also pay Bhatia $500 each. 

Bhatia told Hell Gate he considers this settlement a "real victory." "At the end of the day, I hope the settlement will deter other New York City police from retaliating against people who document and criticize them and that it will encourage others to exercise their rights like I did," Bhatia said. 

But Bhatia criticized DHS for not doing enough to ensure that what happened to him doesn't happen to other New Yorkers. Bourne was suspended and put on a one-year probation; Diaz was docked 10 vacation days. Coye is no longer a DHS cop—in the spring of 2021, he agreed to resign as the result of a DHS internal investigation. 

"DHS should have done more in terms of supervising and disciplining the two DHS officers who did not quit, Bourne and Diaz, including by retraining them on the rights to record and criticize police," Bhatia said.  

As part of the settlement, the City has also agreed to remind all Department of Homeless Services police officers—or "peace officers," as the City prefers to call them—of the need to comply with City and state policies, including people's right to record law enforcement officials in public. 

Gideon Oliver, Bhatia's attorney, lauded this as an "important step," but said the City needs to do more. "Unfortunately, the substance of the underlying right to record 'training' is a joke," he told Hell Gate. "The City should get serious about the right to record and police training, supervision, and discipline related to it."

If you'd like to see how one of the City's law enforcement agencies trains its officers on the need to respect people's constitutional rights, check out this NYPD video, which reminds people that officers need to respect people's constitutional rights but then follows up that reminder with a roleplay in which an officer actually interferes with someone attempting to record them:

And more links for your Tuesday:

  • The City is still "stepping up security and scouring social media for threats as the city braces for protests over former President Donald Trump’s potential criminal indictment—including an expected 'car caravan' of Trump supporters who plan to come in from Long Island on Tuesday," according to the Daily News
  • Our YIMBY mayor wants to bring back tax breaks for developers and SROs. "Why can't we do a real examination of the rules that state every bedroom must have a window?" Adams said at a Gothamist/WNYC event on Monday. “You know when you sleep it should be dark." Wonder what the FDNY thinks about that!
  • He also found time to embarrass his son:
  • Meanwhile, librarians are begging Adams not to cut tens of millions in library funding.
  • Here's a thought on where we could find an extra $30 million dollars… 
  • Let's check in on the mayor's plan to involuntarily commit people with mental health issues, via Gothamist: "Months after ordering the NYPD to involuntarily transport to the hospital a broader range of people displaying signs of mental illness, police officials revealed Monday that officers are actually transporting fewer people than before."
  • A driver killed two people and injured five others after the "49-year-old man lost control of his car on 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst and apparently blew through a red light before ramming into another vehicle at the intersection of 64th Street."
  • *eyes emoji*

And finally, congrats to Councilmember Osse:

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