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Letter: NYCLU Raises Concerns About Pending Disciplinary Proceedings Against Officers Involved In Louima Case

The NYCLU today sent the following letter to Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg concerning disciplinary proceedings against the police officers involved in the Louima case. March 1, 2002 Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg Mayor City of New York Raymond Kelly Commissioner New York City Police Department Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, We write in response to the decision of the United States Court of Appeals yesterday concerning the convictions of former police officers Charles Schwarz, Thomas Wiese, and Thomas Bruder. In particular, we write in response to reports that Mr. Wiese and Mr. Bruder may seek to have the Police Department reinstate them to their positions. As we understand it, Mr. Wiese and Mr. Bruder were facing Department administrative proceedings at the time they were dismissed from the Department because of the convictions that the Second Circuit yesterday overturned. While we do not know the precise status of those administrative proceedings, we write now to urge the City and the Department to take certain actions with respect to those proceedings. First, we urge that City officials refrain from making any public pronouncements prejudging this matter. As you may recall, after the acquittal on criminal charges of the four Street Crime Unit officers charged in the killing of Amadou Diallo, Mayor Giuliani publicly announced that those officers were innocent of misconduct, even though the Department still was in the process of evaluating charges of misconduct against the officers. This statement created the appearance that the subsequent disciplinary review would be a sham and, we believe, substantially prejudiced that review (which not surprisingly resulted in the officers being exonerated). In this instance we hope that Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly, and other high-ranking City officials will refrain from making any similar pronouncements or from taking any other actions that would compromise the integrity of Department disciplinary proceedings. On this point it is important to note that, while an indictment cannot alone serve as a basis for concluding that the accused engaged in behavior warranting dismissal from the Department, the dismissal of criminal charges does not necessarily exonerate a police officer from allegations of having violated Department rules. In this case Mr. Wiese and Mr. Bruder are entitled to the same protections afforded all defendants who are acquitted of criminal charges, but nothing in the Second Circuit’s disposition undermines the Department’s ability to proceed with administrative charges, which are not criminal in nature, involve different burdens of proof, and may involve substantively different accusations of misconduct. We urge that any public statements reflect these principles. Second, we urge the Department to conduct a thorough and expeditious investigation as to whether Mr. Wiese or Mr. Bruder violated Department policy in their actions surrounding the assault on Mr. Louima and the subsequent investigation of that assault. Should the Department conclude, after affording the Mr. Wiese and Mr. Bruder the due process to which they are entitled, that they did engage in misconduct, we urge the Department to impose discipline commensurate with the gravity of this case. In this respect, we note that substantial evidence was introduced at trial indicating that all three officers had engaged in a conspiracy to mislead investigators about their actions and made false statement to investigators pursuant to that conspiracy. As the Second Circuit noted after detailing some of this evidence, There is little need to recite in further detail all the evidence that would have supported a jury finding that [Mr. Wiese, Mr. Bruder, and Mr. Schwartz] agreed to mislead both state and federal investigators. If this had been the object of the conspiracy charged, we have no doubt that such a jury verdict would be upheld. United States v. Schwarz, Nos. 00-1479, 00-1483, 00-1515, Slip Op. at 60 (2d Cir., Feb. 28, 2002). And the Police Department has a strict policy against the making of false statements, as set out in Patrol Guide section 203-08, which provides in relevant part that ‘[t]he making of false statements will result in dismissal from this Department, absent exceptional circumstances.’ We take no position at this time about whether Mr. Wiese and Mr. Bruder are guilty of violating section 203-08 or other Department rules. However, there is ample evidence to warrant the resumption of disciplinary proceedings against them should they seek reinstatement. Such action is particularly important given the widespread and well-founded belief that the so-called ‘Blue Wall of Silence’ — with the attendant efforts by police officers to tailor their accounts about incidents of misconduct so as to conceal the truth about such incidents — is substantially hampering efforts to remedy police misconduct. We thank you for your consideration of these points. Should you have any questions, please fee free to call us. Sincerely, Christopher Dunn Assistant Legal Director Donna Lieberman Executive Director Arthur Eisenberg Legal Director c: Michael Cardozo Corporation Counsel Stephen Hammerman Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters

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