September 2020 – Caruso/Dinkins Years(1990 – 1994)

John Young (Patrolman)
September 2020

FACT #1:  Police officers bear witness to a revolving door of justice in which hundreds of thousands of their arrests (many made at great risk of life) are plea-bargained or being dismissed.  This is a mockery of justice and is highly disillusioning.

FACT #2:  In an age in which civil disobedience is an accepted form of public protest, it is the police who serve as the buffer between the demonstrators and society.  Without losing their composure, the police must exercise superhuman restraint and deal with being taunted, spat-upon and having human feces hauled at them.  But today’s cops are not robots and sometimes unleash human emotion.  When they do, they are treated severely by the media, the courts and the police department.

Above are two of the ten facts that Phil Caruso wrote in a full page ad that appeared in the New York Post on October 1, 1992.  The facts were PBA counterpoints on why a

demonstration by cops on September 16th against the creation of an all-new C.C.R.B. was  described as a “police riot” by most of the New York media.  Caruso had previously written a letter with the same facts to the New York Times editor on September 25, 1992. It was in response to their editorial entitled, “New York’s Finest Mob.”

David Dinkins was the City Clerk (1975-85) before becoming the Manhattan Borough

President (1985-89).  He beat Ed Koch and two others in the 1989 Democratic Primary

and went on to defeat Rudy Giuliani on November 7, 1989.  Taking office on New Year’s Day, Dinkins appointed Lee Brown Police Commissioner with Ass’t Chief Ray Kelly becoming the 1st Deputy.  Kelly jumped several three star chiefs and Chief of the Department Bob Johnston.

The city was in the midst of a major crime wave, as the city’s murder rate peaked to 2,605 killings during Dinkins’ first year.  A headline from the New York Post asked Dave to do something!  The Family Red Apple Boycott started because a Haitian woman was beaten by a Korean grocer (1990), and the Crown Heights riots (1991) put the cops in the middle, once again.  Remember working the West Indian Day Parade and those last minute instructions?

A vehicle accident where two children of Guyanese immigrants were struck by a car in the motorcade of the Orthodox Chabad Grand Rebbe.  A seven years old boy died at the scene.  This led to three days of rioting between young blacks and Jewish residents, and the attack by 20 individuals and subsequent stabbing death of Yankel Rosenbaum. 

The acquittal of the four police officers in the beating of Rodney King led to rioting in the City of Angeles during May/ June 1992.  I remember watching the Six O’Clock News showing Los Angeles store owners guarding their shops with shotguns.  

The “Big Apple” was hosting the Democratic National Convention (July 13-16, 1992), but the shooting of Jose Garcia (a Dominican immigrant) by P.O. Michael O’Keefe on July 3, 1992, led to six days of civil unrest in Washington Heights.  The civil unrest consisted of the burning of vacant buildings and abandoned autos that brought FDNY to the scene so they could be pelted with bottles and other debris.  Dinkins visited Garcia’s mother.  The front page of the Daily News showed Dinkins comforting her with the  head-line, I Want the Truth, Mayor Promises Justice.   Cardinal O’Connor spoke from the steps of City Hall (with the Mayor at his side) saying,“The Catholic Church will not tolerate any police cover-up.”  Yea, Right your Eminence!  By the way, O’Keefe’s shooting of Jose “Kiko” Garcia was justified, as the Manhattan District Attorney handled the case.  The civil case against the City was finally settled (2003) with Garcia’s mother receiving an award of $170,000. 

For two years, Dinkins failed to fill vacancies of members on the C.C.R.B. but suddenly called for a whole board without any civilian NYPD employees.  In June 1992, Dinkins appointed Judge Milton Mollen to head a commission on police corruption.  Back in 1987,  Caruso agreed to steady tours to stop Ben Ward’s plan to rotate cops within precincts to deter corruption.  However, that was only after a six-day citywide work slowdown and threats of a walk-around City Hall by off-duty cops.

Remember the police demonstration at the Bronx Supreme Court Building in support of Steve Sullivan?  Back then, cops rotated tours and we were able to get cops from the late tour and those working on the third platoon.  I believe we had about 6.000 off-duty cops. Most of them carried coffee because of starting time.

Thursday, September 17, 1992, New York Post headline, MUTINY!  Photo stated:  Sea of angry cops surges on City Hall as  the officers vent their rage at Mayor Dinkins’ plan for an all-civilian complaint review board.  Subtitle: 10,000 rowdy cops blast Dinkins at City Hall rally.

Some media pushed that the tone of the rally was racial, stating that racial slurs were hurled about by police demonstrators.  Even Dinkins said he heard racial epithets.  However,  truth be told, he was attending the uptown funeral of New York Congressman Ted Weiss, while 10,000 cops were marching around City Hall.

Why did the cops storm the steps of City Hall?  Apparently three women carrying a banner ran towards the steps and they were quickly grabbed by a 3-star Chief and taken inside the building.  I can’t name him because he was a dues paying member and a good guy.  The ladies were released.  However, the next event (a fly-over by a Fire Department helicopter) caused the cops to head for the Brooklyn Bridge.  Did I mention I’m color-blind?  There’s something about that bridge!  One of the facts in the advertisement mentions that during the year & a half before the PBA demonstration there were 18 marches across the Brooklyn Bridge by various groups.  The cops were asked to protect the marchers and allow them violate the law.  No summary arrests were made.

A flier by Cop Shot (1992) gives the following fact:  If our system of checks & balances  is so poor, why (in the context of 12 million calls a year which results in 500,000 arrests & millions of summonses) is there a minuscule number of civilian complaints against cops – about 4,000 a year.