|Updated Apr 18, 2016|
By MARK TOOR
|RICHARD EMERY: Outspokenness became a distraction|
|MINA MALIK: Claims retaliation over beef about slur|
Richard Emery’s tongue was just a little too quick and a little too sharp for a Civilian Complaint Review Board Chair.
Derided CCRB Director?
Mr. Emery, already under fire for using a cliché that police unions insisted was derogatory to officers, resigned abruptly April 14, one day after CCRB Executive Director Mina Malik filed a lawsuit accusing him of using an insulting term for women to refer to her and a female colleague.
Ms. Malik’s suit in Manhattan Supreme Court contends that when she and the unnamed female lawyer differed with his position on a complaint, he responded, “I don’t know why everyone is acting like a bunch of pussies.”
When she complained the next day, according to the suit, he “insisted that he only meant to call Ms. Malik and the female attorney ‘pussy cats,’” according to the suit. And when she took the issue to the CCRB’s Equal-Employment-Opportunity Office, which called in the city Department of Law, Mr. Emery began undermining her authority and laying the groundwork for her firing, the suit said.
Mr. Emery told the Daily News that the word was not directed against Ms. Malik or the second lawyer, but an indication of his unhappiness that his staff was not taking a harder line in dealing with NYPD administrative prosecutors. “I was talking about the cowardice,” he said. “I use animal metaphors and they don’t have anything to do with sex.”
But coming on top of his dispute with the Patrolmen’s and Sergeants Benevolent Associations over his law firm’s representation of a successful CCRB complainant in a suit against the city, and his later unfortunate choice of words when he said he would not deprive people of good lawyers because the unions were “squealing like a stuck pig,” it all became too much.
Many observers believed that Mr. Emery’s utterances damaged the image of objectivity and gravitas that he needed to be an effective CCRB Chair.
“I want to thank Richard for his service to this city,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement accepting Mr. Emery’s resignation. “Over the past two years, the CCRB has resolved cases much more quickly and efficiently.”
The Mayor’s Office appended Mr. Emery’s statement to Mr. de Blasio’s.
“After a lengthy substantive discussion with the Mayor, he and I agree that the confluence of recent circumstances will preclude me from further fulfilling my goals as Chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board,” Mr. Emery said. “The issues of inhibitions on my law practice, several of my recent public statements and recent litigation have created daily distractions from the success of the CCRB.”
The PBA said Mr. Emery’s resignation was justified. “Had a police officer made remarks similar to Mr. Emery’s on two occasions, that officer would have been harshly disciplined,” the union’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, said in a statement.
“The next CCRB chairperson should be held to the same high standards that police officers are. Our hope is that whoever replaces him will be a fair-minded and reasonable person who has a basic respect for police officers and the difficult job that they do.”
Edward D. Mullins, president of the SBA, said he was “pleased” by the resignation but added that another board member should resign as well. He had accused the board member, Bishop Mitchell Taylor, in 2014 of physically attacking two construction officials at the site of a hotel where Mr. Taylor wanted residents of the Queensbridge Houses to be hired.
“There was obviously a culture of devaluing women at CCRB under Emery’s tenure,” Mr. Mullins told the Daily News. “That culture will not be eradicated until Bishop Taylor is removed.”
Predecessor Also Suing
Ms. Malik’s predecessor, Tracy Catapano-Fox, has sued the city, charging that she was fired in October 2014 after she complained about Mr. Emery being too close to top NYPD officials and about Bishop Taylor, who she said sexually harassed a CCRB employee. Bishop Taylor has not commented substantively about those allegations or the purported fight at the construction site.
The conflict between Mr. Emery and the police unions surfaced in February, when the PBA and the SBA called for him to resign or be fired after his law firm, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, took over a lawsuit filed by a CCRB complainant whose complaint was upheld by the agency.
The unions called this a violation of city conflict-of-interest laws. The CCRB said that whatever Mr. Emery was doing was permitted by the city Conflicts of Interest Board, but the law requires that such determinations be kept private and neither agency would say exactly what he was allowed to do.
The CCRB Chair is a part-time job that carries token compensation.
‘Stuck Pig’ Brouhaha
As the argument raged over his law firm, Mr. Emery told the Daily News, “I’m not going to deprive the public and people who are abused by police officers of having access to excellent lawyers because some union is squealing like a stuck pig.”
The two unions immediately called the use of the word “pig” a slur against police officers that showed Mr. Emery was unfit to hold his position. The term “squealing like a stuck pig” originated in the Victorian era to describe the sounds made by wild boars that British officers on horseback hunted with spears in India. It came into use more than 100 years before protesters at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago popularized “pigs” to deride cops.
Mr. Emery then said his firm would no longer represent CCRB complainants. But he was already damaged enough that the Malik lawsuit pushed him over the edge.
The CCRB is empowered to investigate complaints of excessive force, discourtesy, foul language and abuse of authority filed by civilians and can recommend disciplinary action to the NYPD.
Target of Unions’ Ire
Police unions have long despised the CCRB for what they said were long, drawn-out, unprofessional investigations during which promotions and similar personnel actions for targeted officers were put on hold.
Mr. Emery, a longtime friend of Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, tried to improve the workings of the board, as he said in his resignation statement:
“The reorganization that I put in place in December 2014, which achieved quality justice for complainants and officers within four months instead of upwards of a year, and the agreement rate for discipline by the NYPD of 90 percent—up from 60 percent—prior to July 2014 when I was appointed Chair, are unprecedented achievements of which I am very proud. Staff has worked hard to make these gains against all obstacles which, I hope, has made them feel rewarded in their work. Our policy reports—especially the Chokehold Report and the recent [report on illegal searches]—have and will, I believe, contribute to the ongoing reforms of the NYPD.
“My hope had been to consolidate these changes and create an institutional imperative for the future of the CCRB and the NYPD. Regrettably, that has become far more difficult than the CCRB’s initial success because of current strife within the agency. As a result, quite simply, too much of my time and energy is being misdirected on matters tangential to the long-term best interests of the agency and too much time has been taken from my law firm, its staff and my private life."
‘Best Continue Without Me’
“Therefore, I am resigning today with the clear message that I believe that the board and CCRB staff can best continue what we started without me and with new leadership. I wish the Mayor, the Council and the Police Commissioner the best to continue consolidating the gains and stemming the tide of CCRB detractors. I stand ready to volunteer in this effort if my help can make a difference in the future in improving relations between NYPD and our fabulous city communities.”
Mr. de Blasio appointed Deborah N. Archer, an associate dean at New York Law School, as Acting Chair. She has been on the CCRB board since 2014.