Updated: February 25, 2016, 11:29 PM
BY JOHN MARZULLI
|SUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS|
|Richard Emery's inflammatory use of the word "pig" which cops consider to be an epithet hurled by police-haters, was made in an interview with The Daily News,|
The head of the Civilian Complaint Review Board did an about-face on Thursday, claiming he meant no harm by saying police unions were “squealing like a stuck pig.”
The mea culpa came shortly after Gov. Cuomo publicly suggested Richard Emery apologize or resign. The Emery apology came in a statement released by the CCRB.
“I have never and never would use the word ‘pig’ to refer to police officers,” said Emery, the board chairman. "I have the utmost respect for policing as a civic function and police officers as people and publicly servants who selflessly serve us all.
"To the extent that anyone was offended by my poor choice of words, I apologize and want to make clear that nothing I said was directed at our superb public servants," he said.
The drama erupted after the CCRB boss said police unions were “squealing like a stuck pig” after cops complained that his law firm’s representation of plaintiffs who have made CCRB complaints and are suing the city was a conflict of interest.
It is widely known that “pig” is an anti-police slur. The comment was first reported by the Daily News in a story about the escalating tension between Emery and two police unions — the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association.
Emery, a fiery litigator who has never been one to shy away from firing back at an opponent, apparently realized that he had gone too far with the "stuck pig" comment. Just before Emery expressed his regrets, Cuomo said the CCRB chairman should apologize or resign "because if he's not fair minded he can't do the job."
The unions called for Emery’s removal after The News revealed that his law firm was recently retained by a Queens man suing a sergeant and cop who were investigated by the CCRB.
|Front page of the New York Daily News for Thursday is about Richard Emery and Patrick Lynch in a war of words: BLAZ BIG CALLS COP UNION "PIGS"|
Edward Mullins, the president of the sergeants union, said Emery is a skilled lawyer who chooses his words carefully.
"He used the term 'pig' knowing that it was disrespectful," Mullins told The News. "He knew exactly what he was saying and how it would be interpreted."
PBA President Patrick Lynch wasn't in a forgiving mood, either.
"Emery cannot take back his words and his apology is disingenuous at best," Lynch said. “The CCRB is too important an office to have an anti-police, political appointee who makes money on the backs of our cops. We thank Governor Cuomo for his continued support of our police officers but we believe that Richard Emery should be dismissed or resign now."
Emery, a veteran civil rights lawyer, was appointed by Mayor de Blasio in July 2014 with the mandate to revamp the way CCRB investigates allegations of police misconduct that include improper stop-and-frisk encounters, illegal searches, excessive force, discourtesy and foul language.
There has been a 60% increase in substantiated complaints on Emery's watch, which has led to more cops getting disciplined.
The mayor has been pleased with the results, but he also condemned Emery's "pig" comment.
"It was very insensitive language," said de Blasio. "He shouldn't have done it."
When he took the CCRB job, Emery received permission from the city's Conflicts of Interest Board to keep his name on the law firm, but he must recuse himself at the agency from any matter involving any client of the firm.
Emery said Thursday that the law firm is taking a further step that is not required by the Conflicts Board — the firm will turn away a client if their complaint was substantiated by a CCRB panel that included Emery.
Emery's salary from the CCRB last year was only $59,166, but he shares in the fees, settlements, and awards stemming from his law firm's work. A review by The News found that Emery's firm racked up lawsuit settlements and legal fees from the city totaling more than $1 million since he was appointed to the CCRB.
He said he will explore the possibility of walling himself off from the profits derived from suits that involve the CCRB.
But the sergeants union president said that's not good enough.
"The fact that he is profiting from his position cannot be erased until his firm stops taking cases against police officers or he steps down from the CCRB," Mullins said.
The PBA is filing a Freedom of Information request with the Conflicts of Interest Board for all the documents and communications related to Emery's appointment and how he described to the COIB his continued relationship his law firm, according to a union source.
Emery said he is not allowed to disclose whether he participated in the CCRB investigations of the NYPD sergeant and the cop who are being sued by plaintiff Stefon Luckey. The CCRB substantiated an allegation of improper use of pepper spray by Sgt. Jared Hospedales against Luckey who dropped his original lawyer and hired Emery's firm earlier this month.
Luckey is also suing Officer James Frascatore who the CCRB in a separate complaint by tennis pro James Blake, cited for using excessive force. Emery said his firm may withdraw from the Luckey civil case.
With Glenn Blain, Jennifer Fermino