A federal lawsuit filed against the New York City Police Department last week exposes the shoddy way the agency trains and disciplines officers when it comes to use of force against citizens, specifically when it comes to tasers and chokeholds, the latter which have been forbidden since 1993.
The suit names one cop in particular, an NYPD cop named Fabio Nunez who has a long history of citizen complaints against him for excessive force, including five settlements that have cost taxpayers more than $220,000 beginning in 2009.
Nevertheless, Nunez was promoted to detective in 2015 and became a Neighborhood Coordination Officer, which was part of an initiative by Mayor Bill DeBlasio to build trust between police and the community.
The lawsuit, which you can read here, centers around an incident in 2018 when Nunez and another cop arrested a man named Tomas Medina over loud music. Medina had turned off the music and explained to the cop that the speaker was not his.
A surveillance video shows Nunez grab Medina from behind and placing him in a chokehold although Medina never displayed any signs of aggression.
After a struggle, Nunez then pulls out his taser and uses it on Medina. The struggle continues off-camera as 23 more NYPD cops come rushing in while witnesses pulled out their phones to record. At least two cops tried to keep people from recording.
The lawsuit states that once Medina was transported to a local precinct, NYPD officers Christopher Sciliano and Nay Htoo pulled his pants down while searching him, then leaving his pants around his ankles to humiliate him in front of other officers in a very high-traffic area of the precinct.
The NYPD then proceeded with the usual coverup, claiming that Medina had bit Nunez’s hand and had struck the second officer, Shanee Hansler, in the face – but none of that was caught on camera.
Medina was charged with two counts of assault and resisting arrest and received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, a conditional dismissal allowing prosecutors to refile the charges if he gets arrested again.
According to the lawsuit, the use of chokeholds is rampant within the department even though they have been forbidden since 1993 by NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly who expressed “concerns about the rising number of deaths in police custody.”
However, between 2015 and 2018, at least 40 federal lawsuits were filed against the NYPD for the illegal use of chokeholds, including 30 that settled for a total $1,236,502. More than $800,000 was dished in settlements for taser incidents during that same period as well stemming from 14 settlements.
But these incidents are believed to be a fraction of what really takes places on the streets, the lawsuit states. In fact, between 2009 and 2018, the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board received 1,811 complaints about NYPD cops using illegal chokeholds.
The most notorious incident in recent years is the death of Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a chokehold by another cop with a long history of complaints against him, Daniel Pantaleo, who was finally fired this year, more than five years after the incident.
Pantaleo, however, was spared any criminal consequences for the death even though the city paid Garner’s family a $5.9 million settlement.
A shortened version of the incident is above and the longer version is below, showing everying that took place more than 11 minutes before the arrest.