Worrisome words of cops' trainer
May 13, 2002
James Fyfe's being named director of training at the Police Department may raise concerns about just what lessons he will be teaching young cops.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has called Fyfe "a straight-shooter" and "a recognized expert in law enforcement."
"We're very fortunate to have him on board," Kelly said.
Others may wonder.
On Feb. 16, 2000, Fyfe waived his fee and testified for the four officers aquitted of murder in the fatal shooting of unarmed African Amadou Diallo. This is some of what he said:
"Was the initial stop of Diallo in accordance with standard New York City and United States police procedure?" Stephen Worth, the attorney for police Officer Edward McMellon, asked.
"Yes," Fyfe said.
The police had said Diallo had been peering in and out of doorways.
"Peering in and out of doorways is considered suspicious," Fyfe explained.
"[Was] the fact that two officers initially stayed in the car while two other officers got out of the car to make an inquiry in accordance with New York City Police Department practice and procedure?"
"It's my opinion that that was appropriate ... My opinion is that it was appropriate for them to leave cover [their car] to do that," Fyfe said.
"They were behind cars. They identified themselves as police. They got no response and Mr. Diallo headed into the apartment vestibule very quickly ... Their job at that time was to prevent him from getting into the apartment."
Worth then asked Fyfe about McMellon's "beckoning gesture toward Mr. Diallo as if to say 'Come here.'"
"The expectation that the police work under is that when they inquire of people they'll get a response, and that if their suspicions are existent because the individual is acting in a way that is extremely out of the ordinary those escalate when the individual runs away," Fyfe said. "Flight is one of the very specific factors that officers should consider in making those kinds of stops."
Asked about pursuing Diallo into the vestibule, Fyfe said the officers acted appropriately because they were in a high-crime neighborhood. He added that they also had to consider that there were innocent citizens inside who could be taken hostage.
"You want to keep him away from innocent civilians because you don't know what he's likely to do," Fyfe said. "A situation like this does present the possibility of a barricade situation, which is a situation in which an individual is in a position of advantage; he's behind a door, or a hostage situation where he runs into the place and takes someone hostage. And that has happened frequently in New York."
Earlier this month, the city agreed to pay him $300,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging he was harassed and threatened for making those charges. In addition, he will be reinstated again so he can retire with a vested pension of $12,000.
"It's unthinkable and unspeakable," a top police official said of the settlement.
Walter Mack, then head of Internal Affairs under Kelly, acknowledged he had a hand in bringing Acosta back in 1993.
"I don't second-guess that judgment," Mack said. "What happened both before and after I left I have no knowledge."
Kate Ahlers, a spokeswoman for the corporation counsel, says the settlement was discussed with both Kelly and his predecessor, Bernard Kerik.
"Approval for the settlement was discussed and approved during the last administration," she said.
"I love the old-fashioned police uniform and hat," Davis said. "It looks like my son [Matthew Davis, a lieutenant in the Internal Affairs Bureau ]. He has a mustache. It's a shame they are going to get rid of the rest of them."
© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.