Post 13 Trivia – Policeman’s Bill of Rights
John Young, Patrolman
The reason cops were given their “Bill of Rights” was because plainclothes men were exercising their 5th Amendment right before the Grand Jury. The District Attorney’s office would ask cops to sign a “Waiver of Immunity,” but cops would take the stand and refuse to answer questions. The District Attorney would notify the Police Department of the facts and next came a departmental hearing at Police Headquarters. Dismissal followed under the provisions of the New York City Charter.
A 1965 dismissal case, Gardner V. Broderick, 392 U.S. 273, was decided in June 1968. However, the legal beagles within the department came up with the provision where-by the Department would obtain statements from police officers without violating their 5th Amendment rights. It came first as a Temporary Operating Procedure, then enacted as General Order #15 in April 1967. Interrogation of members of the service became Patrol Guide procedure 118-9. It has been embodied in PBA contracts since 1972.
There were some interesting cases regarding the “Bill of Rights” that involved Bronx police officers that came to different conclusions. One case involved the District Attorney’s office calling for a Grand Jury, while the second case was closed by the end of tour. A third case went on for months with subject officer found not guilty by the Deputy Commissioner of Trials.
Another incident in the Bronx, known as “The Flying Puerto Rican,” was made famous in the 1981 movie “Fort Apache, The Bronx.” Ptl. Murphy (Paul Newman) wrestles with the problem of whether to tell his captain of seeing another cop throw a young man off the roof, or resign.
In real life, both 42nd Precinct cops were placed on desk duty and given G.O. 15 hearings. Both officers refused to answer any questions concerning the incident at the hearing because they believed that the Department would not believe them. Rather than say they chased the individual to the roof, they chose not to answer any questions concerning the allegation that they threw the boy off the roof. Both cops were dismissed by the Police Commissioner.
Fast forward to the 1980’s, two cops in the 44th Precinct chased a suspected drug dealer to the roof of an apartment building. The individual was found in the backyard and identified a responding officer as the cop who threw him off the roof. The riding District Attorney allowed I.A.D. (later became known as Group One) to handle the case. The cops were given G.0.15 hearings and suspended before the end of their day tour. The cops admitted chasing the suspect into the building, but that he had disappeared once they arrived on the roof. After a short search of the adjoining roof, they returned to their foot-posts. A radio run of a man down in the backyard of same location, saw one of the officers responding and was identified by him, as the cop who threw him off the roof.
Both cops admitted to being off their posts. One probationary officer stated that he was looking for a collar and the second cop (another rookie) on the adjoining post agreed to back him up. The Duty Chief suspended both officers and they were both dismissed by week’s end as they were both on probation. The suspect lived, probably with a large settlement from the City.
Another case involving two more Bronx cops and the Civilian Complaint Review Board saw them being refused G.O. 15 and ordered them to make a voluntary statement by the CRB’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Edwin Dreher. He inferred that the case was going to be presented to a Grand Jury. Both officers did not make any statements. The subject officer received departmental charges (three counts of assault), while his partner was called as a department witness. In the old days (before overtime), cops went to the Centre Street Trial Room, in uniform on their day off.
After 14 appearances at 240 Centre Street, including a two day trial, the subject officer was found not guilty of all charges, but CCRB still has a substantiated case on his department record. It should be noted that the original offer to subject officer by the Advocate’s Office was to resign or be fired. The subject officer retired in June 1999.
By July 1991, the P.B.A. received numerous complaints that the Department was turning over transcripts of compelled interviews under P.G.118-9 to the different N.Y. District Attorney’s offices. This was originally designed to bring harmony to two competing interests: One being the right of the department to conduct investigations, even of its own members, and secondly, the individual police officer’s constitutional rights, especially against involuntary self-incrimination.
Unfortunately, NYPD had embarked on a policy of sharing information derived by way of PG 118-9 hearings with city District Attorneys, upon their demand. In one case, the interviews of two witness officers were turned over the the Manhattan D.A. and used in a 1988 case against an off-duty Sergeant and police officer. They were accused of beating two homeless men after attending a high school basketball game at Madison Square Garden.
It is important to get the facts. A Bronx shooting by a federal DEA agent (subject) and Bronx Narcotics officers (non-shooters) was handled by the Duty Captain. The DEA agent went home as he didn’t work for the responding District Attorney and acted upon a federal warrant. After many hours, the Bronx cops were given “Miranda Warning” by the District Attorney. They remained silent on the advice of their attorney. In the next room, the captain conducted P.G. 118-9 hearings with the witness officer. Eventually, the DEA agent testified before a Bronx Grand Jury.
The Policeman’s Bill of Rights is basically a good thing, but sometimes it has been abused by certain individuals. District Attorneys sometimes abuse their office, not for the better good. Muggs McGinnis, the cop’s name for the District Attorney in the 42nd Precinct case never closed his case, but both cops were afraid to admit they were on the roof. The 44th Precinct cops admitted they chased the individual to the roof, but they were fired because they were off-post and on probation.
TO BE CONTINUED