Mimesis Law
19 August 2019

Is NYPD’s Joel Edouard An Officer We Want?

August 16, 2016 (Fault Lines) – On July 23, 2014, Jahmiel Cuffee was in a driveway when he was accosted by NY Police Officer Joel Edouard and two other officers. The officers claimed that Cuffee had thrown away a marijuana cigarette, but there was no evidence of that marijuana found. So Cuffee was violently taken to the ground, where Edouard walked over and stomped on Cuffee’s head.

This wasn’t subtle, either. Edouard deliberately walked over and stomped on Cuffee’s head, and he did it while two other officers held Cuffee down, and several other officers stood by and watched. Cuffee’s charges were dismissed after the cellphone video appeared, and in February of last year, the Brooklyn grand jury indicted Edouard for misdemeanor assault. That was significant, because unlike Texas where an officer’s state peace officer license is suspended for any offense above a traffic ticket, in New York a police officer only loses their job for a felony conviction.

So in April of this year, Edouard was convicted of assaulting Cuffee. In a bench trial, NY Supreme Court[1] Justice Alan Marrus found Edouard guilty, stating:

He gratuitously stomped on the head of a man being restrained by other police officers. I find him guilty.

Edouard’s lawyer, Anthony Ricco, said:

He wants to keep his job and deserves to keep his job. Officer Edouard is an officer we want.

Edouard had been on leave with pay until the conviction, but was put on unpaid leave upon the guilty verdict. At the same time, Cuffee has filed a notice of claim with the city, asking for $25 million in damages. While I don’t think his claim is worth anywhere near that amount, he is, in my opinion, entitled to some damages, and that fact along with the guilty verdict clearly shows that Edouard did not deserve to keep his job.

Justice Marrus sentenced Edouard to two years probation on June 23d. The DA had asked for 60 days in jail. Justice Marrus also ordered Edouard to resign from the police department if not fired. DA Ken Thompson felt that this was appropriate, stating:

This police officer intentionally and needlessly stomped on the head of a suspect who had already been restrained by fellow officers And he did so in broad daylight and in front of a crowd of people.

Edouard was going to appeal that part of the order, but it is a moot point now. On August 10, 2016, NYPD fired Edouard after a department trial.  Ricco is not happy about that,

This is not a case where a person was murdered, killed, choked to death on the street, shot in a bathroom. None of those officers faced any departmental charges. We have this hard-working police officer, member of our community who kicked somebody, and he’s fired, convicted and fired, and it’s a loss for our community.

You know, Ricco’s got a point. Eric Garner was choked to death and the officer involved was no billed by the grand jury. Ramarley Graham was shot to death in a bathroom, and although the officer was indicted, those charges were dismissed by the trial judge before trial. But Ricco is also wrong.

Edouard is part of the problem. He’s part of a culture who thinks that it is OK to tune up a suspect who is not immediately compliant.[2] So he stomped on Cuffee’s head. Second, where is the evidence of weed? So you need to get rid of these, to make an example out of them. Scott Greenfield addressed the same issue yesterday, talking about Baltimore PD and reforming a department from the top down.

It’s going to have to be implemented from the top, but it’s going to have to be forced on the department from outside the department. Take a look at Chicago—where the mayor is pushing outside review and more transparency. The street cops don’t much care for it, but that too damn bad. They work for us, and we can hold them accountable.

New York has started to do so.

[1] In New York, the Supreme Court is the state-level trial court. The highest appellate court is the NY Court of Appeals.

[2] Cuffee was not complying, and the use of some force to effect the arrest would have been appropriate. Stomping on his head was not that force.

2 Comments on this post.

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  • Wrongway
    17 August 2016 at 5:30 am - Reply

    Civil Trial ?

    • Greg Prickett
      17 August 2016 at 6:22 am - Reply

      Not yet, that I can tell. The only thing I could find was the notice of claim.