March 2020, Post Trivia – Caruso & Congress (con’t)

Caruso & Congress (con’t) John Young (Patrolman) March 2020 Last month we left off with Phil Caruso’s statement before Representative John Conyers (Democrat, Michigan) November, 1983. In September, he had already written a similar opinion to a New York Times editorial, “How to Police the Police.” How we got there! In June, attorney C. Vernon Mason, Rev. Calvin Butts and a group of religious leaders along with several members of the Grand Council of Guardians went to Washington. Their mission was to meet with Congressman Conyers (then chairman of the subcommittee on Criminal Justice) and convince him to come to New York City. Also at the meeting were Congressman Charles Rangel and staff members of several New York congressmen who convinced Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino (Democrat, NJ) that Conyers’ subcommittee should hold as many hearings as would be necessary. Questionable arrests by police, use of racial epithets and unwarranted use of physical force were the norm. Anyone and everyone, who was black, seemed to be a likely target for police insensitivity and misconduct, including black officers working in plainclothes who were subjected to racial epithets and attacks by white uniformed police before (and even after) they identified themselves as police. According to their congressional 1984 report, “There were ugly confrontations between black police organizations and the PBA (integrated but white-controlled),” were said to be relayed by some officers. “We can’t help the black community because we are hardpressed to help ourselves,” said one Officer. Being a PBA delegate since 1970, I don’t remember any particular incident but, then again, I don’t remember what I had for breakfast today. The subcommittee scheduled hearings with Mayor Ed Koch in July & September. The Mayor declined to appear at the 369th Harlem Armory on 9/21/83, stating that the location was inappropriate. However, he and Commissioner McGuire both attended a meeting on November 28, 1983. McGuire had already announced that he was leaving and Mayor Koch had named Ben Ward, as his new Police Commissioner. It’s funny that Conyers was the only Criminal Justice subcommittee member to attend the New York hearings, but was joined by fellow Congressman George W Crockett, another Democrat from Michigan. Crockett’s famous statement, “Detroit solved its police brutality by electing a black mayor, who appointed a black police commissioner.” That statement probably helped Koch to move Ward from Corrections to 1 Police Plaza. Witness testimony introduced 98 cases of alleged brutality previously reported to CCRB. 5 did not take place in NYC; 4 involved white persons (although the witnesses stated that they were minority persons); 5 cases involved black NYPD Police Officers (although witnesses misrepresented the officers as being white); 8 cases involved Transit Police; 2 involved Housing Authority Police; 1 involved a retired NYPD Detective; 1 involved a Correction Officer. Consequently, the original 98 allegations were whittled down to a precious few. The real clincher, however, was the fact that the allegations of widespread police brutality dated back a quarter-of-a-century to 1958! This was the best that Mason & Co. and other political opportunists could do to support their claim. The Congressional hearings attracted considerable attention from the media. The NY Post wrote an article on Caruso’s opening statement and a bitter 15-minute clash with the panel of Congressmen (Rangel & Conyers) in the Cadman Plaza court house. The Post headline read, “Angry PBA Boss Stomps Out of Hearing on Cops.” What sparked it? Phil ripped the subcommittee by stating, “You people have got your priorities screwed up and that’s all I have to say,” and walked out after Rangel and Conyers grilled him on why there were no blacks on the PBA Board of Directors. Nothing was asked about police brutality, but only why there was no black representation on the PBA’s board. Reporter Doug Feiden of the NY Post wrote, “Earlier, Rangel had insisted that you (Caruso) should welcome these hearings as a way to clear your name and the name of the NYPD.” Caruso shot back , “I’m not hear to clear anyone’s name,” and walked out of the jam-packed Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, triggering boos and hisses from the crowd. It should be noted that the subcommittee’s report did not mention Caruso’s testimony but he had already won re-election before the first hearing. A change in the PBA Constitution & By-Laws (1982) saw a four-year term for the board of officers and more appearances for Phil on major radio and television stations. By October 1984, a city-ordered eviction led to the shooting of Eleanor Bumpers in the Bronx, with Mario Merola (Bx D.A) telling the press, “They should have locked the door and gone for coffee.” Because of criticism by the public, the PBA went on an extensive advertisement campaign defending the use of force by Officer Sullivan. P.O. Sullivan was indicted for manslaughter in January 1985. Supreme Court Judge Vitale dismissed the indictment in April 1985. The State’s Court of Appeals voted (5-1) to reinstate the manslaughter charge (11/12/86), but Sullivan opted for a bench trial. Judge Eggert found Sullivan “not guilty” in February 1987, and the “Feds” showed no interest in the case. The shooting was found to be within the guidelines but ESS was issued “Tasers.” During this time, Al Sharpton appeared dressed in an orange jumpsuit at 250 Broadway and painted the letters KKK on the outer hallway walls of the 20th floor. A year later, a small bomb was planted in a utility closet outside the PBA office but went off just after midnight. The only damage was in the stockroom because a large safe blocked most of the explosion. The PBA office moved to another location later in the year. Just for the record: C. Vernon Mason lost his law license (1995) for cheating clients out of monies. Conyers was forced to resign from Congress (2017) because of sexual abuse allegations, and the lesbian group “M-19” admitted bombing   the PBA office.
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