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Police Crime Reporting Scandal: Now the 66th Precinct?

September 27, 2010

Did Brooklyn police ignore a citizen’s complaint about a flasher who ended up shooting four members of an Orthodox Jewish volunteer patrol?

That’s the charge reported in Hamodia, a Borough Park newspaper whose name means “Notifier” in Hebrew, and which calls itself “The Daily Newspaper of Torah Jewry.”

The paper also says that the 66th Precinct commander, Deputy Inspector John Sprague, is taking personal command of a police investigation to determine whether, or why, no report was filed.

Police said that, on Sept 2, members of the Shomrim volunteer patrol, which is licensed and unarmed, and which has been patrolling Hasidic neighborhoods for two decades, were tailing the suspect, 33-year-old David Flores, after they received a report of a man exposing himself to children.

At about 8 p.m., the Shomrim guys saw Flores get out of his car. Then they chased him, and tried to disarm him. Flores, who has nine prior arrests, then began firing, hitting four Shomrim members at 49th Street and 10th Avenue in Borough Park. Two were hit in their hands, one in his neck, a fourth in his abdomen, police said.

None of the injuries was life-threatening. The four were treated at Lutheran Medical Center, where a large contingent of police — including Police Commissioner Ray Kelly — appeared.

Well, guess what? According to Hamodia, a week before the shooting, a Borough Park woman told a 66th precinct police officer that she and others witnessed a man matching Flores’s description exposing himself outside her house on both Aug. 25 and 26.

The woman, Faigie Friedman, said she had alerted the Shomrim patrol, and later spoke to a police officer who responded to her home. She gave that cop a description of the suspect, his car, and its license plate number.

Now guess what? The police officer apparently never filed a report of Friedman’s complaint.

The NYPD appeared to confirm that no report was filed.

An email from its Public Information Office to Hamodia, reads: “Officers from the 66th precinct responded to a 911 call to that location on Aug 26th. Police are investigating whether a report was made.”

Flores, meanwhile, has been charged with assault, criminal possession and use of a firearm, reckless endangerment and menacing — but not with the sexual offenses that Friedman allegedly witnessed and reported to police.

Now, if all of this is true, it serves as yet another example of police refusing to take crime complaints — yet another sign that this abuse is not confined to the 81st precinct, as described by whistle-blower cop Adrian Schoolcraft.

What Inspector Sprague’s involvement means, though, is unclear. Does it portend an honest investigation or another police cover up?

Remember, these allegations of police refusing to take crime complaints have been around long before Schoolcraft turned up with his tape-recordings of 81st precinct roll calls, where police supervisors ordered cops to downgrade felonies to misdemeanors and to refuse to take civilians’ crime complaints.

In every case, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have stonewalled attempts to discover what is going on inside the NYPD that has led to this mess.

Now here’s a case that goes beyond what the mainstream media seems to be treating merely as administrative corruption.

Here in the 66th precinct, the department’s alleged failure to take a civilian’s crime complaint and file a report has had real — and tragic — consequences.

Or, as a source in Borough Park said, when describing how police treat civilians asking for help: “When people do everything right, and want to report a crime, the police challenge them immediately. There is a court case on the street, and it is repeated hundreds of times.”

Sources also note the silence of the Shomrim leadership about the apparent police failure to have taken the initial crime report.

Or as a reader, calling himself “Authentic Satmar,” commented to Hamodia: “And that is why crime is down in boro [sic] park. The police refuse to report it. As for the Shomrim coordinator, it sounds like he is protecting the police department. The community needs to make a big deal of this not let it get quiet.”

LET’S HEAR IT FOR BRANDON. A reader writes to question this column’s depiction of the secret attempt by Bronx Captain Brandon del Pozo to explore a settlement with whistleblower cop Schoolcraft. Del Pozo offered him a cushy job and the ability to testify against two top-ranking police officials after police dragged him from his apartment to Jamaica Hospital’s psychiatric ward, where he was held for six days.

“The captain in question surely ranks among ‘the best and the brightest’ among the future leadership of the NYPD,” he begins….[H]e is a Dartmouth graduate. …[H]e holds two masters degrees, one from Harvard and another from John Jay. He spent two years in the Middle East in the service of the NYPD.

“Surely, if you were Kelly, would you not want to entrust a back channel initiative to a man of this caliber, rather than to a higher-ranking officer? Don’t we want to see people of this background given greater responsibility as they learn to play a shaping role in the future of the NYPD? ...

“Neither can the NYPD initiative to explore a settlement in the Schoolcraft case be called bizarre. Call it a back-channel effort. Call it an ‘unofficial’ approach. Call it an example of Track II diplomacy. Schoolcraft’s people had every right to refuse the terms of settlement that were offered. But it is not fair to hang the messenger in the bargain.

“I am sure that our brainy and capable young captain will rise above this contretemps. In time the Schoolcraft case will be settled. Let’s hope that as the aggrieved party, which he is, the dollars in his package will not entirely drive the settlement equation.”

Law enforcement sources in both the Queens District Attorney’s office and the Eastern District say Schoolcraft is refusing to cooperate with their preliminary attempts to investigate what was literally a police kidnapping from his Queens apartment.

His attorney Jon Norinsberg, disputes this. “I can state categorically and unequivocally that this claim is false. I don’t know who these people are who are making up such false claims or why they are making these claims but there is no truth whatsoever in what they were saying.”

Schoolcraft is suing the department for $50 million dollars. ________________________________________________________________________________________

Copyright © 2010 Leonard Levitt