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Some red faces among NYPD’s blue uniforms

March 21, 1997

The New York Times reporter who police arrested while covering the funeral procession of rapper Biggie Smalls was temporarily barred from Police Plaza yesterday, and informed by a sergeant that her building pass had been invalidated because of her arrest.

A few minutes later, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode swept into the Times' second-floor office at Police Plaza, closed the door behind her and apologized to the reporter, Julia Campbell, telling her she had ordered an investigation.

"I apologized for any embarrassment it might have caused her," Mode explained. "And yes, I asked for a review of the incident."

An official assigned to Police Plaza's building security division termed the invalidation of Campbell's in-house credentials "standard operating procedure following an arrest, for security purposes."

Campbell, a 30-year-old freelance reporter working at Police Plaza for the past month, was arrested Wednesday and charged with disorderly conduct. Police alleged she attempted to interfere with officers trying to control the crowd that had jumped atop car roofs on Fulton Street in Brooklyn.

Police also charged that Campbell pushed a lieutenant and cursed the Brooklyn North Task Force's captain, David McAndrew. An NY1 videotape of the incident does not show her inciting the crowd, pushing the lieutenant or cursing McAndrew. Rather, it shows her shielding her eyes after pepper spray is discharged at the crowd and saying to police, "Why did you do that?" It then shows police arresting her.

Meanwhile, reporters who reviewed part of the tape identified Sgt. Steven Braille as having ordered her arrest. The department acknowleged Braille has been the subject of six civilian complaints through the years, Printable versionsome involving the use of force. All the complaints were unsubstantiated, which means the allegations could neither be proved or disproved.

A top department official said, "We are looking at his record."

Braille also was identified by witneses as beating the head of an unidentified man with a can of pepper spray. Other Times reporters maintain he ordered Campbell's arrest.

In a telephone interview, Braille, who was himself injured in the incident, denied involvement in Campbell's arrest. "I was not involved in that incident," he said. He declined to comment on the pepper spray incident, saying it was under investigation, but did acknowledge he had the spray in his hand.

"Our unit trains rigorously and our primary responsibility is so quell such incidents," he said. "We don't just randomly use it. Only supervisors are issued Mace. We know it is not a toy. It is an effective non-lethal way to disperse a crowd, a crowd that does not want to respond to our commands. We acted to prevent a larger-scale riot."

Of the past complaints against him, he said, "One was unfounded and the other five were unsubstantiated. Since becoming a sergeant six years ago, I have had one complaint. In all of them, I acted as I was trained to act."

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© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.