Wall Street Journal

Upd. March 31, 2016 8:14 p.m.


Video of Postal Worker’s Arrest Puts Spotlight on NYPD Unit

Police commissioner says he is ‘very concerned’ by incident; postal worker says officers walked toward him ‘very aggressively’

By PERVAIZ SHALLWANI

OFFICE OF BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT ERIC L. ADAMS
New York Police Department officers’ arrest March 17 of a U.S. postal worker who was delivering packages was captured on video.

The viral video of New York Police Department officers’ controversial arrest of a U.S. postal worker delivering mail in Brooklyn has put a spotlight on a specialized unit of officers assigned to deal with quality-of-life conditions.

Three officers in the conditions unit in a Crown Heights precinct have been removed from their assignment, but remain on duty, while they are under investigation by the department for actions that Police Commissioner William Bratton said have him “very concerned.”

The lieutenant who was supervising the officers, Lt. Louis Machado, was placed on modified duty and stripped of his badge and gun, police said Thursday. The officers’ names weren’t released.

Lou Turco, president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, said the union would defend Lt. Machado and “wait for all the facts to come out.”

The officers, who were in plainclothes, approached 27-year-old postal worker Glen Grays after he shouted at them because they almost ran into him with their unmarked vehicle earlier this month, Mr. Grays said. A bystander’s cellphone video shows the officers arresting him on a charge of disorderly conduct following a brief exchange, leaving his postal truck double-parked and abandoned on a busy street.

“I’m very concerned about the performance of the officers, about the leadership role of the lieutenant involved and about the processing of the arrest at the precinct station house,” Mr. Bratton said Tuesday, adding that he has reviewed the video that has been made public along with other videos gathered by investigators.Conditions unit officers, who are located in the majority of precincts throughout the city, are handpicked to work on quality-of-life issues that range from homeless encampments to locations where car accidents frequently occur. They are required to be in uniform, though commanders sometimes don’t enforce that requirement, officials said.

Mr. Bratton said that as part of the department’s probe into the incident, investigators will look at why the officers were in plainclothes, “for what purpose, who authorized it.”

A law-enforcement official said the Brooklyn district attorney’s office has been in touch with the NYPD’s internal affairs investigators, which is protocol in such cases. Prosecutors typically wait until an internal investigation is finished before determining if a criminal investigation is warranted.

The U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General is aware of the incident and looking into the matter, a spokesman said.

The union that represents the officers defended them Wednesday, saying Mr. Bratton “should withhold public comment until all the facts are in.”

“Videotaping police encounters usually results in a rush to judgment by people who have no firsthand information about what transpired,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Grays said he was in the middle of his shift on St. Patrick’s Day when he shouted at what turned out to be an unmarked police car that almost ran him over. The officers stopped, got out and approached him, asking for identification, he said.

“They reversed and got out and that’s when the officers walked toward me very aggressively,” he said.

The bystander’s video, which was released by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, shows plainclothes officers coming up to Mr. Grays at the door of an apartment building and asking for ID before placing him under arrest.

“My ID right there on the side of the truck,” Mr. Grays says. One the officers responds, “Let’s go get your ID.”

“I’m not going nowhere. I’m delivering my postal route,” Mr. Grays is heard responding.

In the video, officers repeatedly tell Mr. Grays to stop resisting arrest, though he doesn’t appear to be resisting and can be heard shouting back, “I’m not resisting.”

Mr. Grays is handcuffed, placed in a car and charged with disorderly conduct, a criminal summons.

The police commissioner said investigators will also be looking into the booking officer at the precinct and why police moved forward with the charge.

“I’m very interested in the charge that was made against this individual…the validity of that,” Mr. Bratton said.

Additionally, Mr. Bratton said he was very concerned that a postal truck was left double-parked unattended on a major city street.

Mr. Grays, who has retained an attorney, said he thought the officers should face discipline but didn’t want them to be fired.

“Honestly, people have families. I don’t want them to take meals off kids’ plates,” he said.