Video seems no match for NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s “bad apples” this year, as yet another incident of police brutality gets caught on camera. In the course of a scuffle to arrest an alleged farebeater at the Stillwell Avenue subway station in Coney Island, an undercover NYPD officer kicked a uniformed officer in the head, believing it was the suspect. But the real question is: Why was the officer looking to kick someone in the head in the first place?
DNA Info obtained video of the incident, which reportedly occurred some time in January. In what admittedly begins as sort of a confusing jumble of jacketed bodies, there are two uniformed officers and one suspect. The plainclothes officer rushes in, considers the scene, then delivers a frank kick to one of the heads on the ground. Unfortunately for him, it’s a different head than the head he’d intended to kick. He apologizes to the officer, rubbing his head tenderly, then, having identified the suspect, punches him squarely in the head. He has since been stripped of his gun and his badge.
Last month, NYPD officer Vincent Cardiello kicked street vendor Jonathan Daza in the head. Also this year, NYPD officers have been accused of stomping on a man’s head, shoving a pregnant woman, pistol-whipping a 16-year-old in the face, and killing Eric Garner with a choke-hold—none of which are officially sanctioned police maneuvers. The fact that each of these was caught on video is the primary reason we’re aware of them. And even then, this incident is nine months old.
The primary issue here is that despite the case of mistaken identity, which might have taken all of three seconds to avoid, is that a kick to the head is any officer’s first response to an altercation like this, never mind the fact that the suspect was already being restrained by one identifiable cop. Certainly there are other ways to intervene. Then there’s the matter of the forceful punch to the face to someone actively being restrained.
While the NYPD has declined to comment on the specifics of this recording, according to DNA Info, Bratton’s “bad apple” stance among his top brass remains. But with so many of these bad apple incidents in recent months, it’s worth asking the question: Just what sort of apple tree are we growing here?
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.