That’s So NYPD: Just Give the Cop Your Motherfuck*ng Phone
June 8, 2016 (Mimesis Law) – Say what you like about the NYPD, it rarely disappoints.
Well, except when it comes to respect for the rule of law and New Yorkers’ constitutional rights, not succumbing to fear, knowing how to handle firearms or using appropriate levels of force. In that regard, the NYPD always disappoints.
But in the extremely limited sense of giving us examples of Hispanic cops shoving guns in people’s faces for recording them as they make an arrest, the NYPD rarely disappoints.
On June 5, the New York Daily News published video showing an NYPD sergeant, Diana Pichardo, pointing her gun at a man named David Rivera, calling him “motherfucker” and grabbing his phone out of his hand. Rivera’s “crime” was recording Pichardo and her fellow cops as they arrested three of his neighbors in Rivera’s hallway.
According to the Daily News, Rivera and his girlfriend were watching 50 Shades of Grey at Rivera’s apartment on March 8, 2015, when they heard a scuffle break out in the hall. No doubt grateful for the interruption, Rivera stepped outside, cell phone in hand.
This is where the video begins: the first half shows a bunch of NYPD cops loudly and enthusiastically arresting Rivera’s neighbors. In typical dogpile fashion, cops threw themselves on the arrestees and wrestled them into submission on the ground. Meanwhile, Sgt. Pichardo got caught between two dogpiles, tugged on someone’s arm, then decided to stand around shrieking* profanities at the top of her voice with her gun out. When she spotted Rivera, she pointed her gun at him and screamed “get the fuck out! Move the fuck up!”
Rivera, to his great credit, maintained his composure: the video has him saying “don’t point that gun at me!” as he slowly moved away from the sergeant, back to the door of his apartment. He never stopped filming, nor did he have to: it’s utterly reprehensible of a cop to threaten someone with a gun for exercising their First Amendment right to record the police in the performance of their duties.
(If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because we reported on a very similar case just last week. Like Pichardo, Officer Risel Martinez drew down on a bystander filming him and yelled at him to back up.**)
Now, as jaded cop-watchers know, it wouldn’t be an NYPD video without a couple of pointless Fourth Amendment violations. While Martinez was content to express his contempt for people’s rights by punching a bystander in the face, Pichardo opted for a more subtle approach.
After they finished arresting Rivera’s neighbors, the cops came over to talk to Rivera, who was standing in the doorway of his apartment, still recording. The video resumes at this point: the cops, who blocked Rivera’s view and leaned into his apartment, can be heard ordering Rivera to shut his door. Rivera refused, insisting he was within his rights to stand in his home and film them, and told the officers to withdraw their hands and feet from his doorway.
This tense situation was only defused when Pichardo pushed her way to the front of the cop huddle and screamed “who are these people to you?” in Rivera’s face. Before he could reply, Pichardo yelled “give me the fucking phone, motherfucker!” and grabbed or knocked it out of Rivera’s hand. Like Martinez, Pichardo doubled down on the unconstitutionality by arresting her victim on bogus charges.
Next, the cops performed a warrantless search of Rivera’s home. What they didn’t know was that Rivera, a security systems technician, had installed a camera inside his apartment. Even though Pichardo terminated the cell phone recording, the illegal search was caught on video.
With evidence like this, it only took the Brooklyn DA’s office 43 hours to dismiss the “slew” of charges for which Pichardo arrested Rivera. Rivera, who spent the 43 hours in jail, was released – only two days in jail, a false arrest and a ransacked home the worse for the experience. It appears the DA had better things to do than investigate civil liberties abuses by the NYPD, but Rivera filed a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, New York’s famously intransigent ineffective cautious police watchdog.
It seems the evidence was too strong for even the CCRB to overlook: one year later, it substantiated Rivera’s report. Accordingly, Diana Pichardo is now undergoing disciplinary review, though she remains an active member of the force.
The CCRB and NYPD may have been motivated to act – or give the appearance of acting – by Pichardo’s lengthy record of being named as a defendant in federal § 1983 lawsuits. Rivera’s lawyer has said he plans to file suit later this week. If nothing else, it’ll be a great new opportunity for New York taxpayers to foot the bill for Pichardo’s antics.
*The Daily News’ choice of word, which I reuse because I’m forced to agree. It’s earsplitting shrieking.
**The similarities are actually kind of alarming. In both cases, the people whose arrests were being filmed told the cops kneeling on them that they couldn’t breathe.