NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey Says CCRB Has No Jurisdiction Over His Voiding of Arrest of Ex-Cop Who Allegedly Pulled Gun on Three Kids
NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey at an event to take New Yorkers’ questions and update them on the Adams administration’s ongoing public safety efforts in New York City. (Ed Reed / Mayoral Photography Office)

NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey Says CCRB Has No Jurisdiction Over His Voiding of Arrest of Ex-Cop Who Allegedly Pulled Gun on Three Kids

Maddrey’s attorney placed the blame for the whole 2021 incident on “prevaricating teenagers who lied” and an “inexperienced sergeant.”

NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey is arguing that he shouldn't be held accountable for ordering the release of a former colleague of his who'd been arrested on suspicion of brandishing a gun at children in 2021, because the decision was "an internal NYPD matter," according to a new memorandum Maddrey's lawyer has submitted to the police department's disciplinary body. The letter, viewed by Hell Gate, previews the legal strategy Maddrey will use when prosecutors from the Civilian Complaint Review Board try him before an NYPD disciplinary judge in August.

Maddrey, the top uniformed officer in the NYPD, who has strong support from Mayor Eric Adams, has resisted efforts to discipline him for the episode for years. The CCRB determined that Maddrey, then the NYPD's chief of community affairs, abused his authority when he visited the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville and ordered the police there to release a former police officer who had worked under him, and to void his arrest. 

When former NYPD commissioner Keechant Sewell sided with the CCRB's findings that Maddrey had abused his authority and docked Maddrey 10 vacation days, Maddrey exercised his right to contest the charges with a disciplinary trial, originally scheduled for this month. Days before the trial was scheduled, Maddrey's lawyer delayed the trial so he could discuss a possible settlement with CCRB prosecutors, but that meeting went nowhere, and Maddrey's trial is now back on for August.

The charges against Maddrey stem from an incident on the night before Thanksgiving in 2021, when three kids, ages 12, 13 and 14, were playing with a basketball in Brownsville and—deliberately or accidentally—the basketball hit a security camera outside a local real estate office. Kruythoff Forrester, the former cop who had worked under Maddrey, emerged from the building and chased them. The kids claimed Forrester drew a gun on them. Terrified, the children ran home and called the police. 

When the cops arrived, Forrester admitted that he was carrying a gun, but denied drawing it. But the three kids were able to accurately describe the distinctive markings on the gun, and the precinct captain on the case, Sergeant Karl Hanisch, decided there was reasonable suspicion to arrest Forrester. 

On the way to the precinct, video obtained by the CITY shows, Forrester asked cops to let his old boss, Maddrey, now in the top ranks of the department, know that he'd been arrested, and soon afterwards Maddrey showed up at the precinct. Hanisch later testified that Maddrey ordered him to void the arrest, and Forrester was released.

The letter from Maddrey's lawyer, first reported by the NY Post, argues that none of this is the CCRB's business.

Maddrey's lawyer called the kids who say Forrester brandished a gun at them "prevaricating teenagers who lied," and explained Maddrey's intervention this way: "Those lies were wholly believed by an inexperienced Sergeant, who did a sub-par investigation and rushed to arrest an innocent man, while an experienced supervisor like Maddrey saw right through the lies."

The letter continues a line of argument that Maddrey has pursued from early on in this episode, that the sergeant who made the call to arrest Forrester was inexperienced, and that rather than arresting a former cop on the word of some kids, he should have taken the kids in for hitting the camera with their basketball.

What the letter fails to explain—indeed, what Maddrey has never been able to explain—is how, if Forrester didn't brandish a gun, each of the kids was able to describe to the police not only where he holstered it, but also its distinctive coloration. As Sergeant Harnisch said to fellow officers during the investigation, according to the CCRB investigation citing body-worn camera footage, the kids "said silver and black on top, they told me they pulled it from the side of the waist where he has his holster…It’s hard to say someone’s got a gun, and describe the gun, and then that guy has a gun, and it matches." Forrester's piece, Harnish said, is "a very distinctive gun… his gun's just not normal."

As the CCRB noted in its decision to recommend charges against Maddrey, that more than clears the legal bar for arresting Forrester. Police can arrest someone when the facts support a "reasonable belief" that a crime has been committed, and case law is clear that information provided by one person—to say nothing of three people—can be sufficient to justify an arrest.

By the NYPD's own internal rules, Maddrey's intervention on behalf of his former colleague appears to have crossed multiple red lines. Maddrey, who described Forrester to CCRB investigators as "a good man," whose "family owned property within the confines of the precinct," told the investigators he intervened because "it was alleged that a former officer was falsely arrested, he was in the vicinity of the precinct, he knew PO Forrester, and he wanted to ensure that a thorough investigation was conducted."

But the department's Administrative Guide expressly forbids NYPD members from “participating in the Department disciplinary process, or its investigatory process, when there is a …personal (e.g., friend, neighbor, business/financial, close colleague, etc.) relationship, or any other relationship with the respondent that could create, or appear to create, a conflict of interest.”

The department's Patrol Guide notes: "Any incident involving an off-duty officer or member of another law enforcement agency should be treated in a comparable manner to other incidents or confrontations routinely encountered with other members of the public. These individuals should not receive preferential treatment based on their former or present status.”

The NYPD's internal investigation into one of its high-ranking members cleared Maddrey, and that, he argues in his letter, should be the end of it, because his actions aren't subject to review by the civilian watchdog.

"During the entirety of his involvement, Chief Maddrey had no interactions with any members of the public," the letter reads. "There have been no allegations of misconduct by Maddrey against any member of the public, nor that he supervised any NYPD personnel that engaged in misconduct against any member of the public. Maddrey’s actions on the day in question, were decisions on an internal NYPD matter, which resulted from an inexperienced newly minted Sergeant’s rash and improper decision to arrest an innocent man."

Maddrey's repeated insistence that he didn't harm any member of the public would likely come as a surprise to the three people who say someone threatened them with a gun and sought help from the police, only to learn that, thanks to Maddrey, the police weren't going to do anything about it. (The teens have since filed a civil lawsuit against Forrester, in which they say the episode has left them in a continuing state of "severe anxiety, fear, and distress.")

But the letter's argument is that because Maddrey didn't interact with any members of the public the night he sprung his buddy from lock-up, he's not subject to the CCRB's authority. This argument relies on a sentence in the introduction to the City Charter's section on the CCRB, which reads, "It is in the interest of the people of the City of New York and the New York City Police Department that the investigation of complaints concerning misconduct by officers of the department towards members of the public be complete, thorough and impartial." 

The operative section of the charter that lays out the powers and duties of the board makes no mention of any restriction of its authority to instances in which cops are in direct interaction with members of the public. 

Maddrey's letter also argues that he can't be guilty of "abuse of authority," the offense he's charged with, defined in the CCRB rules as "misusing police powers," because the examples of abuse of authority the rules list (while specifying that abuse of authority is not limited to these examples) are things like racial profiling, sexual misconduct, and property damage, all abuses of the sort a cop interacting with the member of the public might do.

"The enumerated examples of Abuse of Authority are clearly intended for street level policing and solely those instances where there are police and civilian interactions and not what transpired here," the letter from Maddrey's lawyer reads. "It could not be clearer that the CCRB’s chartered purpose is incongruent with the current prosecution of Chief Maddrey."

Maddrey's attorney, Lambros Lambrou, who has represented Maddrey in other allegations of misconduct, did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Reached for comment, the CCRB disputed the contention that Maddrey's conduct is beyond the agency's reach.

"One of guiding principles of the Civilian Complaint Review Board is that no individual, and especially no police officer, is above the law," a board spokesperson said in a statement. "We are confident that the Police Commissioner would agree that an officer’s rank should not immunize them from accountability for misconduct. The dismissal of these charges would send the opposite message to both members of the NYPD and all New Yorkers."

But if the logical and legal merits of Maddrey's latest effort to avoid accountability for using his position to spring a friend who three children had credibly accused of pointing a gun at them are dubious, that doesn't mean they won't carry the day in a court that is, ultimately, just a room on the fourth floor of NYPD headquarters, presided over by an NYPD official who answers to the same police commissioner, Edward Caban, who has personally intervened to prevent civilian watchdogs from prosecuting 54 police misconduct cases in barely a year as commissioner.

And if Caban is prepared to use his position to squelch misconduct charges against rank-and-file cops accused of beating protesters with batons, using gratuitous and illegal choke-holds, and committing actual crimes, he has even more incentive to let the Chief of Department walk on these charges. Caban gives every impression of enjoying being police commissioner, and it can't be lost on him that his predecessor Keechant Sewell, exacerbated her already strained relationship with City Hall when she tried to discipline the politically-connected Maddrey on this very matter, over the mayor's objection. She didn't last much longer at the NYPD.

Maddrey's departmental trial is now scheduled to run for three days beginning August 6.

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