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Department disciplines officer: Penalty for alleged forgery

July 21, 2003

A police lieutenant has been disciplined for allegedly forging the name of a complainant on a police report that reduced a felony attempted theft charge to a misdemeanor, Newsday has learned.

Lt. Bridget Banuchi was given "command discipline," a minor type of penalty, after she reduced the amount of the merchandise taken from a Genovese drug store in the Bronx to $500, from $1,815, and forged the name of the store's manager, Devin Bodkin, a Police Department official said.

Banuchi, who worked at the 50th Precinct and is now assigned to Bronx Borough command, did not return a call seeking comment. Insp. Michael Coan, a department spokesman, also declined to comment.

The alleged forgery comes amid allegations that precinct commanders around the city are downgrading crimes from felonies to misdemeanors in an effort to keep the official crime rate low. The attempted theft of more than $1,000 is a felony.

The department has acknowledged that it is investigating the 10th Precinct in Chelsea, where a sergeant allegedly kept two sets of crime statistics. But department officials say the number of wrongly downgraded crimes is isolated and minuscule.

A department official told Newsday that Banuchi may have believed the $1,815 listed in the attempted theft was too high, despite the fact that another Genovese manager presented a printed receipt for that amount.

The incident, on Nov. 4, 2002, at a Genovese on 238th Street and Broadway in which the person attempting to steal the items was caught as he was leaving the store, has drawn a great deal of attention within the department.

The officer who responded to the Genovese call was transferred from a radio patrol car to a foot post, allegedly because the officer refused Banuchi's order to downgrade the report. The officer was eventually returned to the radio patrol car.

And when the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association delegate, Joe Anthony, protested the officer's transfer, he, too, was reassigned to Queens. Anthony and the union have sued the department, alleging a wrongful transfer in retaliation for supporting the officer.

In May, State Supreme Court Justice Debra James of Manhattan ruled in Anthony's favor. The city is appealing.

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© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.