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The Cops

New York’s Finest: The Cop Got Sturdy

Plus pistol-whipping, a demotion, and some May 2020 road rage.

11:22 AM EDT on October 11, 2023

Two NYPD officers look at their phones near a store.
(Matthias Kinsella / Unsplash)

I don't think it's going to happen, but if I become NYPD commissioner anytime soon, I know what policy I would implement as soon as possible (like, by the afternoon on my first day at the very latest). I would install some kind of child safety software onto department-issued cell phones to stop any of my cops from going on TikTok. Yes, not even to scroll the For You Page—it's clearly too much temptation for them to handle.

Just ask Josefa Familia, a 36-year-old NYPD officer who appeared in videos dancing alongside multiple TikTokers with captions like, "THE COP GOT STURDY 😱👮‍♀️" and "She stole the spotlight 🔥😂." Familia became the subject of a New York Post article after her videos went viral, and although Familia doesn't appear to be in an official trouble, she's reportedly gained ire from her fellow officers. "You’re doing choreographed videos in transit while you’re supposed to be working and people are getting hurt every day in the subway," a Manhattan cop "fumed," according to the Post. “Everybody is pissed off about this. It’s one thing if you’re in community affairs, it’s another if you’re on overtime in the subway." "This is absolutely disgusting," a Bronx cop reportedly wrote. "How can an on-duty police officer make videos on social media while working when patrol officers are out there above ground risking their lives to protect New Yorkers?"

For what it's worth, the TikTokers who posted videos with Familia seem to make a lot of content that revolves around affectionately messing with cops around Times Square, mostly through the power of dance. That's not the kind of content I would choose to consume in my free time, but it seems to be pretty popular—posts from both dre_da_dancer and almightyarcher featuring uniformed NYPD officers regularly rack up hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of views according to both creators' profiles. Most of the cops don't play along to the degree that Familia did—moves and all!—but you can see a few of them smiling and laughing in certain videos, even as these creators film themselves openly jumping the turnstiles.

Should there be a crackdown on clout chaser fare evasion? Obviously not. But there's something deeply goofy about watching cops participate in these videos. Sure, cops love TikTok in the same way they love Candy Crush, or looking at their phones in public. Sure, it's benign, as far as police interests go. But the fact that transit cops in particular have enough free time that it's a common occurrence to see them texting or playing iPhone games or (OK, way less common) dancing on camera, underscores the fact that maybe forcing a bunch of them into train stations isn't the most effective use of the City's resources, and the narrative that the subway is dangerous because crime is out of control doesn't comport with reality. 

Anyway, Familia will reportedly live to dance another day—just, possibly, aboveground. According to the Post, "Police sources said the officer was transferred over the videos, but an NYPD spokesperson said she wasn’t in trouble. 'We are aware of the video,' the spokeswoman said to the Post. 'The officer will not be subject to discipline.'" 

Now, for a few weeks' worth of stories about cops who can't say the same: 

  • On September 25, off-duty NYPD transit cop Sunny Parmar was arrested and charged with strangulation in Greenpoint.
  • On September 26, retired New Rochelle Police Department detective and former New Rochelle PBA president Christopher Greco was charged with third degree larceny for allegedly stealing around $24,000 over a five-year period from a charity that he co-founded with his wife, in honor of his autistic son, called Christopher's Voice. (Greco's voice pleaded not guilty.)
  • On September 29, off-duty NYPD officer Carlos Pereyra was charged with assault, resisting arrest, and obstructing governmental administration after getting into a fight in Greenwich Village.
  • On October 1, NYPD officer Junior Sesay yelled at a Civilian Complaint Review Board prosecutor during a disciplinary hearing about a May 2020 incident, captured on camera, in which Sesay drove a car through a group of protestors on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. According to the New York Daily News: "During heated cross-examination, Sesay said he navigated around the protesters as safely as possible, and got visibly annoyed when [CCRB prosecutor Fredy Kaplan] repeatedly asked him how many protesters were in front of the SUV. 'There was no one in front of the car!' Sesay declared. 'If someone was in front of my vehicle, I would have run him over! Do you have a vehicle?' In his closing argument, Kaplan mentioned Sesay’s behavior on the stand. "He was very defensive about my questions and they were straightforward questions,” Kaplan said. “He showed his penchant for frustration. Did his frustration at the time lead him to start lurching the SUV forward?… He was frustrated so he hit the pedal. He wanted to get out."
  • On October 2, former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik, AKA co-conspirator number five, was subpoenaed to testify in a trial in Fulton County, Georgia, the site of former president Donald Trump's fourth indictment for election fraud, after "prosecutors [alleged] Kerik took part in several meetings with lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Arizona, states Trump was contesting after the 2020 election." 
  • On October 4, NYPD officer Christian Zapata pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault in the third degree after he beat a man, Jerome Collins, in front of his 8-year-old son and his girlfriend's autistic 15-year-old son. Collins asked Zapata to wear a mask while the cop was responding to a 911 call from the teenager's mother on December 7, 2022, who contacted the police because they were having trouble controlling and calming down the teen during a mental health crisis. The cop refused and an argument ensued, until "Sergeant Zapata grabbed [Collins] and began punching as he and another officer held down Mr. Collins’s hands, a scene captured by the body cameras. Sergeant Zapata kept on striking Mr. Collins until an officer stepped between the men. He later said he broke his finger while he was hitting Mr. Collins, according to court documents filed by prosecutors." Zapata, who was reportedly promoted to the rank of sergeant right before the incident, was demoted in August 2023.
  • On October 9, NYC Department of Correction Captain Tony Montague was arrested and charged with attempted assault, illegal weapons possession and reckless endangerment after getting in a fight with an unnamed woman outside of a bar in White Plains. According to footage from a nearby security camera, Montague pistol-whipped the woman before two off-duty cops from Yonkers and Westchester County pulled their guns on him and broke up the right.

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