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After Four-Year Process, NYPD Commissioner Lets Officer Who Assaulted Harlem Youth & Peppered Sprayed CopWatcher Off with a Slap on the Wrist

MEDIA CONTACT: Eliel Cruz









After Four-Year Process, NYPD Commissioner Lets Officer Who Assaulted Harlem Youth & Peppered Sprayed CopWatcher Off with a Slap on the Wrist

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Wednesday, February 28, 2024–– On April 4, 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Officers Chardy Alberto and Michael Duchatellier verbally assaulted a group of youth in Harlem. Officer Alberto then shoved one of the young people and pepper-sprayed Mercedes Pope, who attempted to legally observe and document (a practice known as CopWatch), along with another youth. The officers left without offering any aid or making any arrests. Four years later, NYPD Police Commissioner Caban has made the disciplinary decision to require Officer Chardy Alberto to forfeit a mere five vacation days for his conduct in the incident, which left Ms. Pope with lasting emotional harm.


In response to the disciplinary decision, Mercedes Pope released the following statement: 


“I’m highly disappointed and frustrated by the NYPD Commissioner’s decision to give Officer Chardy Alberto nothing more than a slap on the wrist for degrading and cursing at youth in Harlem and attacking me and two of the young people. Officer Alberto should have been fired years ago. His partner, Officer Duchatellier, who participated in the verbal abuse and did nothing to stop Officer Alberto’s violent behavior, should have been fired too.


These officers had zero concern for New Yorkers’ safety, rights, or humanity. At the height of the pandemic, they were not even wearing masks. When I saw Officer Alberto shoved a youth and exercised my right to observe and document in hopes that it would de-escalate, he pepper sprayed me and another young person with no warning. This experience changed my whole outlook on the police. These are the people we’re supposed to call when we need help, but I no longer feel safe doing that.


I filed a complaint in 2020 with the CCRB and when they substantiated three charges of excessive force, two charges of discourtesy, and one charge of making a misleading statement against Officer Alberto in 2022 I had hope that he would face real consequences for his actions. I went back and forth to the CCRB and One Police Plaza for four years to try to make sure Officer Alberto was fired so he could not hurt anyone else. That’s four years of emotional damage each time I had to explain what happened and relive the experience, only for Officer Alberto to get off with merely losing vacation days. My experience makes it clear that the NYPD’s discipline system protects abusive officers at the expense of New Yorkers’ well-being and has to be transformed.”


“Merely losing vacation days for profiling, harassing, and attacking young people, and pepper-spraying Mercedes Pope without warning when she attempted to exercise her legal right to CopWatch, is just the latest in a pattern of inadequate discipline for dangerous cops like Officer Alberto,” said Loyda Colon, Executive Director at Justice Committee. “This type of leniency is exactly why there is widespread use of excessive force within the NYPD with civilian complaints increasing by 50% between 2022-2023. This is also why there are repeat offenders of police violence throughout the force. When NYPD officers consistently get away without facing any meaningful consequences for misconduct and violence, it communicates to the entire force that officers can abuse New Yorkers with practical impunity and tells New Yorkers that the NYPD is allowed to assault them. Mercedes’ experience and the consistent outcome of police misconduct cases is clear evidence that the NYPD cannot be trusted to hold its officers accountable and the Police Commissioner needs to be removed as the final decision-maker on discipline.”


“Officer Alberto pepper sprayed Ms. Pope in her own neighborhood within seconds of seeing her,” said Marc Arena of Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP, attorneys for Mercedes Pope. “The forfeiture of a mere five vacation days is simply not justice. The Police Commissioner should have imposed the penalty requested by the CCRB—forfeiture of ten vacation days for discourtesy and termination based on Officer Alberto’s false and misleading statements during the CCRB’s investigation. Inexplicably, it came to light on virtually the eve of trial that Officer Alberto had already forfeited five vacation days for pepper spraying Ms. Pope—a wholly insufficient penalty which is below even a mitigated penalty for wrongful use of less lethal force according to the NYPD’s Discipline Matrix. A total penalty of ten vacation days for what happened to Ms. Pope continues to send a message that officers who commit serious misconduct will face little consequences, if any.” 


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