It's happening: The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent police misconduct agency that was recently awarded the power to prosecute NYPD officers, is making its first prosecution for misapplied stop-and-frisk.
The officer, Roman Goris, has been charged with abuse of power and using stop-and-frisk without legal authority. The charges stem from an incident two years ago in which Goris detained and issued disorderly conduct summonses to a man for what seems like his snarky comments.
On December 23, 2011, Goris and two other officers approached Yahnick Martin, a 35-year-old, black, real estate broker who was smoking a cigar on a Brooklyn sidewalk, waiting for his wife to finish delivering Christmas presents. The officers accused Martin of smelling like marijuana and said they would need to search his pockets. According to the New York Daily News, Martin did not take kindly to the accusation:
"OK. I'll put my hands up but this is really bulls--t," Martin says he told them. Goris pulled out his wallet and lighter, and finding nothing else, handed them back to Martin and started to walk away.
Martin says he [sarcastically] quipped, "Where's the $100 that was in my pocket?"
Goris wasn't amused, court papers say. He started arguing with the married dad, who then asked him for his name and shield number. "You want to be a smartass and make accusations, you're going to jail," another of the officers allegedly responded.
Goris, 33, then handcuffed him "very tightly" and they took him to the 77th Precinct, court papers say.
As he was being hauled off, Martin says he asked the officers to wait until his wife came back to their unlocked car, which was filled with Christmas gifts and had been left running with the keys in the ignition. According to the lawsuit, an officer allegedly told him, "That's too bad, you should have thought of that before being a smartass."
When Martin was allowed to return to the scene — after being issued two disorderly conduct summonses that were eventually dropped — his car and gifts were gone.
Police recovered Martin's van several weeks later, but by that time, the thief had stolen the presents and ran up charges on Martin's wife's credit card. Additionally, the van rental company charged him $800 for damage to the vehicle.
Martin is suing Goris and the NYPD for $2 million in damages.
In addition to Martin's lawsuit, Goris may actually be disciplined for his alleged misconduct. This is a result of a city agreement reached last year that gives the CCRB the authority to prosecute in police misconduct trials.
The CCRB is an all-civilian board tasked with investigating complaints about alleged misconduct among NYPD officers. For two decades, the organization was charged exclusively with substantiating complaints for legitimacy and issuing recommendations to the NYPD for how the offending officers should be prosecuted or disciplined.
Critics had called the CCRB's power to effectively punish police misconduct into question. According to studies, the majority of police misconduct allegations against the NYPD do not result in trials. Of the substantiated complaints that do reach trial, few are prosecuted and judges often dole out lighter punishments than those recommended.
Following the city agreement though, the CCRB will likely try to increase the rate at which substantiated claims are prosecuted. Their new prosecutorial unit started receiving cases in April and has its first trials scheduled for this month.
However, the trials still use a judge employed by the police department and the NYPD Commissioner gets the final say in all verdicts. With this power, the police department still gets to issue the ultimate ruling in officer misconduct cases.