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‘Policing is a Contact Sport,’ Retired NYPD Says After an Officer Hits a Teenager

And other links from the first accursed week of 2023.

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Earlier this week, video footage of NYPD Officer Nicholas Scalzo punching a 14-year-old girl in the head resulted in his suspension and some tepid condemnation from Eric Adams, condemnation that has enraged at least some people sympathetic to the force. 

According to the NYPD, Tuesday's incident occurred after two officers assigned to a school post in Staten Island "observed a large fight including multiple female juveniles" as classes let out on Tuesday afternoon. "While attempting to take one of the individuals into custody, a 14-year-old female obstructed the arrest," the agency said, noting that the officer "utilized physical force." She was taken into custody before being sent to a local hospital, where she was treated and released. Which is all a very dry way of describing what very much looks on video like an officer repeatedly striking a young girl. 

"I was disappointed in the NYPD," the girl told CBS News. "I'm a whole child. Why are you putting your hands on me? You’re supposed to be breaking up a fight."

Following the incident—and the subsequent circulation of the eight-second video online—Scalzo, a 14-year veteran of the force, was suspended without pay. Internal Affairs launched an investigation. And, perhaps predictably, the press unearthed a history of the officer's alleged misconduct. According to a 2014 civil complaint, Officer Scalzo threw a woman against his patrol car and maced her when he arrived to break up a Staten Island house party, calling her an "animal" and a "cunt."  

Shortly after Tuesday's incident went viral, Mayor Adams offered a muted critique of the event after seeing the clip on Instagram: "I was not pleased with what I saw on the video," he said.

Not everyone was so disappointed. On the New York's Finest podcast, helmed by two retired NYPD lieutenants, John Macari and Eric Dym argued punching a teenager was simply a necessary part of the job and decried the mayor's comments, accusing the famously cop-friendly politician of "playing politics." Citing the authoritative text of an NYPD group chat, Macari rebutted news reports, describing a series of events in line with regular department protocol. Scalzo, he said, "tried to effect a lawful arrest, a kid tried to stop him…she kept striking the officer. The officer struck back to gain compliance."

"Clearly in this situation, force had to be used," he said. "My blood is boiling," added Dym, who retired this past fall after facing 52 substantiated allegations of police misconduct, the most in the NYPD. "He was suspended for doing his job."

The podcasters quoted an old Sergeants Benevolent Association maxim: "Police work is a contact sport. It doesn’t look pretty on camera."

Here's what else is going on in the first week of 2023: 

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