The Chief

August 11, 2000

 

PBA Backs Probe of NYPD Spying

Defends '100 Blacks'

By William Van Auken

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has closed ranks with a black law-enforcement organization that has been a frequent critic of the police union, demanding an investigation into an alleged NYPD spying operation against the group.

Joining with 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, as well as the Latino Officers' Association and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the PBA in a letter to Police Commissioner Howard Safir called for a "prompt and formal investigation to identify all NYPD monitoring of any activities" of the two minority cop groups.

Seeks AG Probe

The letter, a copy of which was forwarded to State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, also called for the Attorney General's Office to conduct its own investigation if any surveillance was found to have taken place against the organizations.

"We're concerned about any type of government attempts to control the rights of Police Officers to voice their opinions and express their views," said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch when asked about the union's decision to back the probe.

"The people involved are our members," he said of the African-American cops in 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, adding, "You don't give up your constitutional rights when you become a Police Officer."

Asked if he was concerned that PBA officials could fall victim to the type of Internal Affairs Bureau spying alleged by the black and Latino organizations, the PBA president responded, "I hope it doesn't come to that, but you have to protect your rights."

P.D.: Didn't Monitor

In a statement released in response to the letter, the Police Department said: "There is not now, nor has there ever been any investigation into 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care or the Latino Officers' Association, or any other fraternal organization in the Police Department."

Neither group is, in fact, a recognized NYPD fraternal organization, and both include law-enforcement officers from other agencies. Because of this, the groups have insisted that the department cannot justify IAB monitoring of their activities as an internal disciplinary matter. Rather, they contend, it would constitute illegal spying on legitimate political activity.

The latest surveillance controversy arose as a result of testimony given by the Internal Affairs Bureau's Chief of Criminal Investigations, Raymond King, who revealed that two secret investigations were conducted, one against Lieut. Eric Adams beginning in 1998, and a second that focused on 100 Blacks in March 1999. This second probe, he said, included both physical surveillance and examining the group's phone records.

Chief King was a witness in a Federal civil trial resulting from a lawsuit brought by  former Police Officer Yvette Walton, who charges that she was fired in the wake of the Amadou Diallo shooting for publicly criticizing the methods used by the Street Crime Unit.

Safir: Only One Probe

Commissioner Safir subsequently told Lieutenant Adams -- who heads 100 Blacks -- that he had been the subject of an 11-month investigation stemming from ultimately unsubstantiated allegations that he had dealings with a convicted felon. He denied the existence of a separate probe of the organization.

While Lieutenant Adams said he welcomed the support of the police union president, he added, "I believe that Pat Lynch's actions should not be praised; he just did his job." The PBA, he said, had a responsibility to defend its African-American members, and if they were subjected to IAB surveillance, "that is a union issue."

In high-profile crises for the NYPD - from the Louima case to the shooting of Mr. Diallo - the PBA and the black police organization have been on opposite sides of the fence.

The PBA's continuing campaign to defend former Police Officer Charles Schwarz, after his conviction in connection with the stationhouse torture of Abner Louima, drew particularly sharp condemnation from 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement.

"We strongly disagreed on Schwarz," said Lieutenant Adams. "To the extent the PBA embraces anyone convicted in a court of law, it stands to financially and morally bankrupt the union. They should aggressively take a position to disassociate themselves from someone who has tarnished the shield - the Livotis, Volpes and Schwarzes."

On other issues, however, 100 Blacks and the PBA have quietly worked together. These have included the defense of Ms. Walton and the effort to defeat the so-called Police Discipline Bill, giving the Police Commissioner the authority to impose stiffer suspensions and fines as well as demotions against cops found guilty of administrative misconduct.

City Council testimony in which Lieutenant. Adams and others warned that increased penalties would fall disproportionately upon minority officers plays a significant role in swaying Council Members who might have otherwise supported the legislation, police union officials have acknowledged.

Past Selectivity Cited

"Too often the PBA has not been as vociferous in dealing with issues that pertain particularly to African-American officers," said Lieutenant Adams, referring to what he characterized as discriminatory treatment in terms of promotions, assignments and discipline.

The new PBA leadership, he said, "is attempting to correct some of the ways of previous administrations." In last year's union election, he added, black and Hispanic cops voted heavily for Mr. Lynch's slate.

Lieutenant Adams said he believes the discrepancy between Chief King's sworn testimony and Commissioner Safir's claims alone warrants an outside investigation.

"If the CIA has to go in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee and report on its activities, who does IAB Group 1 (the elite investigations unit) report to, outside of the Police Commissioner?" he asked. "How do we know that they have not conducted similar investigations against people like Al Sharpton, Calvin Butts or the people carrying signs that the Mayor doesn't like?