|PATRICK LYNCH: Instructor being 'scapegoated'|
A month after Officer Peter Liang and his partner described what appeared to be organized cheating in CPR classes at the Police Academy, the NYPD has placed one white-shield instructor on modified duty.
The Daily News identified Officer Melissa Brown, a 10-year veteran, as the instructor who taught the CPR class in 2013 that included Mr. Liang and partner Shaun Landau, whom the NYPD fired the day after the guilty verdict against Officer Liang in the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley.
May Face Internal Charges
Ms. Brown was relieved of her badge and weapon March 7 and assigned to administrative work, several news outlets reported last week, citing reports that were confirmed by unnamed police officials. The reports said the department was still considering whether to bring administrative charges against her.
The NYPD was close-mouthed on the issue. The department responded to an inquiry with an e-mail saying, “A police officer assigned to the New York City Police Academy has been placed on modified assignment as a result of an ongoing internal investigation into CPR instruction.”
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and other observers said there was no way the instructional problems were restricted to Officer Brown.
“We are convinced that when a full review of the facts is concluded it will be clear that the training officer did her job properly,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement. “The PBA will not allow one of our members to be scapegoated for an ineffective training program.”
Both Mr. Liang and Mr. Landau testified that instructors fed them most of the answers to the CPR certification test after a hurried lesson. They said they did not read the manuals and were not confident in their ability to perform CPR, so did not do it for Mr. Gurley after he was struck by an errant bullet Mr. Liang fired accidentally Nov. 20, 2014 in a stairwell of the Pink Houses in Brooklyn.
Left It to Gurley’s Friend
Mr. Landau said that he was so uncertain that he felt Mr. Gurley’s friend Melissa Butler, who was attempting CPR with the aid of instructions from a 911 operator relayed by a neighbor, was better-qualified to do it than he was. A medical examiner testified that CPR, which involves compressing the chest, would not have helped Mr. Gurley, who had been shot through the heart.
Mr. Liang was convicted Feb. 11 of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct. The latter charge was for not giving Mr. Gurley CPR. He was automatically dismissed after being convicted of a felony. Mr. Landau, who testified under a grant of immunity from prosecution, faced administrative charges that included failing to perform CPR, but due to his probationary status, the NYPD was able to fire him without a hearing.
Mike Bosak, a retired NYPD Sergeant and unofficial department historian, commented on Ms. Brown’s suspension in a daily newsletter of police-related articles he distributes. He said that apparently Police Commissioner William J. Bratton “has decided he needs a scapegoat.”
“I graduated from the Police Academy in the class of October 1969, and the CPR training was exactly as described…at the Academy in 2013. I also was [a Neighborhood Stabilization Unit] Training Sergeant in the early ‘80s, and almost all the rookies, who had just graduated from the Police Academy, never received extensive CPR training. CPR training was not, and never has been a priority at the Police Academy. And all knew it—bosses and cops. It was never an issue, ever.
‘Didn’t Even Attempt It’
“Furthermore, I was a Sergeant in Bronx Homicide and Bronx Detectives in the late 1980s and early 1990s for approximately eight years. I’ve seen hundreds of people who were shot, stabbed, beaten, bloodied and otherwise in the process of dying…And not once, not ever, did I ever observe an NYPD police officer even attempt to give CPR to a victim…And that goes for the FDNY firemen, too! If it was bleeding, nobody other than EMS ever touched the body if they didn’t have to…
“To put it all on the shoulders of Melissa Brown is a disgrace and a travesty of justice,” Mr. Bosak concluded.
“The problem goes far beyond what one instructor did, or did not do,” a commenter who identified himself as Blue Trumpet said on Thee Rant, a police chat board. “The very idea that you can properly teach CPR to a group of 300 people at a time is idiotic. The responsibility for this lies with management at the Police Academy. That instructor is just today’s sacrificial lamb.
Lack Time, Dummies
“Just do the math for a 300-person class,” the comment continued. “This was probably a 1-hour class with a breakdown along the lines of: 20 minutes lecture time, 20 minutes set aside for practical time on the CPR dummy and 20 minutes for the test. Assuming each recruit is to get five minutes on the dummy, you would get four waves of 75 recruits to fit within 20 minutes. You think they have 75 CPR dummies on hand for this?”
The lawyer handling Mr. Liang’s appeal, Paul Shechtman, told the New York Post that the action taken against Ms. Brown was good news for his client. “The one thing we’ve now learned for certain is that [the officers] were not carefully trained,” he said.