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Mutual aid org. fights police presence in Washington Square Park



During an aid distribution event at Washington Square Park last month, police officers displaced unhoused people living in the park, discarded their belongings and made several arrests. Now, the organization behind the event is pushing back.

A mutual aid group for low-income people living in and around Washington Square Park is calling for more protections for unhoused people after police forcefully removed a family of unhoused people and their belongings from the area. Three people were arrested during the encounter, including two unhoused people and an activist.

Washington Square Park Mutual Aid runs food and clothing distribution events at the park. On Aug. 19, during one of the organization’s weekly events, two police officers approached WSPMA’s distribution tables to check for violations of the park’s tabling rules, according to organizers.

Police left after people attending the event began shouting at them, but returned with additional officers and attempted to access the organization’s belongings. No items were removed nor were any violations found. The New York City Police Department declined to comment on the incident.

Steve Cruz, the co-founder of Copwatch Patrol Unit — a group of volunteers who follow and take videos of NYPD officers in order to document incidents of police brutality and harassment — frequently attends WSPMA events. He witnessed the Aug. 19 raid and believes it was in response to complaints from Greenwich Village residents and nearby business owners.

“They’re very mad at the people that live in the community that bring food to [unhoused people],” Cruz said. “They try to come after the people that are helping them, and they feel like we’re keeping them here.”

Many WSPMA participants also regularly join protests against police sweeps — removals of unhoused people’s belongings. First, a notice to vacate must be posted at least 24 hours in advance — although there have been cases of authorities failing to issue a notice before conducting a sweep. The Department of Homeless Services, Department of Sanitation, and police arrive together at the posted time. Sanitation workers remove any remaining belongings and structures while Homeless Services workers help locate shelters and other city services for those who express interest. Police most frequently intervene when unhoused individuals do not comply.

A WSPMA member, who did not give his name for fear of police retribution, was part of the group preventing police from interfering with the Aug. 19 distribution. He and others stood in front of officers and told them to leave. One officer repeatedly warned activists to back off.

“We give them a hard time because they don’t belong here,” the organizer said. “They tried to bump past me, going to see what was in our bins, and it escalated to a little bit of a shoving match.”

Members of the organization followed the officers away from their table while Cruz filmed, with others continuing to accost the officers and attempt to pressure them to leave the park. WSPMA had planned to run an educational event on defense against sweeps later in the evening, but the organization postponed the event after being alerted to arrests and a sweep in the northwest corner of the park.

The required 24-hour prior notice was not given for the Aug. 19 sweep, according to WSPMA. Cruz’s video shows that around six WSPMA members attempted to protect an unhoused woman’s belongings, but most were stopped by police.

“They wouldn’t let us help her,” said a person who was a part of the confrontation and also asked to remain anonymous. “We were able to get one person behind the barricades to help her figure stuff out. They trashed a lot of stuff.”

One of the three men who was arrested was a mutual aid activist and off-duty EMT who had helped an unhoused family move their belongings. All three of those who were arrested were later released with court summonses. Witnesses told WSN that the reason for the arrests was not explained to them.

Sweeps have grown in frequency following Mayor Eric Adams’ promise to crack down on structures built by unhoused communities citywide. Critics of the policy argue that sweeps merely displace unhoused people, as many are reluctant to enter the shelter system. The system has been criticized for unsanitary shelter conditions.

As a result of Adams’ policy, activists have been facing off with police to defend encampments, most notably at Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. An April 6 sweep there prompted an hours-long standoff resulting in arrests and protests, and prompted many activists, including some of those at Washington Square Park, to begin advocacy work.

A local block association leader told The Village Sun that the reasons for the sweep included NYU’s student move-in week and the beginning of the fall semester. University spokesman John Beckman, however, told the publication that NYU was not involved in the incident. Beckman said that the university considers the northwest corner of the park a source of concern.

On Aug. 26 during WSPMA’s next distribution event, some of the people that had been arrested during the previous week’s altercation returned to the park, including the unhoused family who had their belongings taken. WSPMA continues to distribute meals and clothing.

“That day, they came in here to intimidate,” Cruz said. “This is not the crowd for that.”

Contact Tori Morales at [email protected]

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Meet the new group that wants to disarm and displace the NYPD – Waging Nonviolence



Jose LaSalle of Copwatch Patrol Unit speaks at a Disarm NYPD event on March 21. (WNV/Ashoka Jegroo)
Jose LaSalle of Copwatch Patrol Unit speaks at a Disarm NYPD event on March 21. (WNV/Ashoka Jegroo)

A newly-formed group of activists are teaming up with Copwatch, an anti-police brutality group that records video of police conduct in their communities, to create “no-cop zones,” and maybe even disarm the police, through the use of direct action.

“Disarm NYPD” is a new collective seeking to immediately stop the New York Police Department from killing anyone ever again. The group seeks to monitor and pressure police, with the help of local communities and Copwatch groups, until they retreat from over-policed neighborhoods and then maintain these cop-free zones with alternative, community-based forms of conflict resolution. Along with that, the group also seeks the total disarmament of the police.

“We feel that the police have proven that they’re not responsible enough to carry arms due to the fact that they’ve been killing people so consistently for so many decades,” said a member of Disarm NYPD, who chose to remain anonymous. “We feel that they should be disarmed immediately.”

Along with stripping police of their weapons, Disarm NYPD wants to push the police out of neighborhoods entirely. Then, within these spaces, the group wants to help residents form conflict-resolution bodies to make police obsolete and to build councils and networks to enable local communities to organize their own lives.

Disarm NYPD originally got the idea for “no-cop zones” from the group Take Back The Bronx. After Take Back The Bronx formed in 2011, members would, for a day, take a corner and put up signs on heavily-policed blocks throughout the Bronx to let police know that they were not welcome, encourage residents to roam their streets unafraid of police harassment by creating a block party-like atmosphere, and raise consciousness amongst neighbors on how they could resolve conflicts without involving the police.

Take Back The Bronx, which is still active and in the process of opening up a space in the Bronx, would also open up the mic for anyone from the neighborhood to speak about the police and local issues. Residents were often very receptive to the no-cop zones and used the opportunity to rant openly against cops, as well as connect with their neighbors. Despite the lack of police during these events, the no-cops zones managed to maintain a jovial atmosphere and always happened without any incidents. From these small, temporarily autonomous zones, Disarm NYPD is seeking to expand the concept to include other no-cop zones around the city with the help of cop-watchers and community members.

On March 21, the group organized a panel in Bushwick, with the family members of people killed by the NYPD, to introduce the idea to people and get them thinking and talking about how to live life without police.

“We’ve all been organizing for years,” said the member of Disarm NYPD. “After Ferguson, we got really inspired and started organizing during the demonstrations. And we figured — since it’s getting warm, and especially since that Ferguson report came out — that we need to start taking more action. We can’t let things fall apart. We have to keep the pressure on the police.”

To create these no-cop zones, Disarm NYPD is teaming up with cop-watcher groups, like Jose LaSalle’s Copwatch Patrol Unit, in order to let the police know that they are being watched whenever they are patrolling communities of color. As the number of people watching the police increases, activists believe they will become more hesitant to abuse their power and even retreat from neighborhoods because they don’t want to be incessantly monitored.

“We’re not doing this just for ourselves,” LaSalle said. “We’re doing this because we want to create an impact on the community and empower the community.”

LaSalle recently finished training about a dozen new cop-watchers to be assigned throughout the city. He and Disarm NYPD also plan on holding more cop-watching training courses in the near future and further increasing their ranks, slowly making it impossible for cops to enter certain areas without a member of the community pointing a camera at them.

In addition, the groups plan on holding more local demonstrations in the communities most affected by police violence and staging small-scale direct actions at local precincts to demand that police leave these neighborhoods. Actions like refusing to serve police while at work, setting up Copwatch information booths across the street from local police stations, and finding alternative ways to resolve conflict without the help of police are also included in the repertoire of tools used to create these no-cop zones.

Local youth write on a large banner at a no-cop zone event in the Bronx. (Take Back the Bronx)
Local youth write on a large banner at a no-cop zone event in the Bronx. (Take Back the Bronx)

No-cop zones allow residents, especially young people, to openly congregate, candidly discuss their disagreements with each other in open view of the community, and focus on the good that could come from resolving their disputes — all without fear of police harassment.

Take Back The Bronx did this on a smaller scale during many of their no-cop zones by calling for residents to “unite our blocks” and getting people to focus on their common needs and oppression. During one no-cop zone event, they set up a large banner with the text “If all the gangs in the South Bronx unite, we could…” and asked young Bronxites to write in an end to the sentence. It was well-received by local youth who wrote in many responses that would decrease conflicts amongst neighbors, like “demand well-paid jobs,” “have a successful basketball tournament,” and most importantly, “get the police off our necks.” With the help of cop-watchers and locals, Disarm NYPD hopes to replicate these no-cop zones on a larger scale and even maintain them permanently.

“We want to use these copwatch patrol units … to keep the pressure on [the police] so they can back up,” one member of Disarm NYPD said. “And when they back up, we want to try to fill that space with something that can create new, revolutionary potentials. And we’d like everyone to take part in that.”

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Most-Complained-About NYPD Cop Retires, Avoiding Penalties



An NYPD lieutenant who had been facing discipline for 52 substantiated allegations of misconduct is retiring instead  — avoiding penalties in three cases and getting docked 64 vacation days in five others, THE CITY has learned. 

The Civilian Complaint Review Board had sought to have Lt. Eric Dym terminated at a disciplinary trial held earlier this year. The 18-year veteran of the force had more pending misconduct allegations against him than anyone on the force, disciplinary records suggest. 

By putting in his retirement papers, Dym will avoid facing discipline for 29 of the charges brought by the CCRB — including four instances of pointing a gun at someone, three incidents of improper physical force and one case of making a false official statement.

The presumed penalty for a false statement alone is termination, under a disciplinary matrix implemented by the police department last year.

Dym has also been named in more than a dozen lawsuits filed against the NYPD, a number of them alleging assault by Dym and other cops, which have resulted in over $1.5 million in settlements so far, records show.

Videos posted online and obtained by THE CITY document multiple instances in recent years where Dym appears to be seen punching and kicking Black men — including with blows to the head and face — in encounters that ended in the men’s arrest.

The lieutenant’s attorney, James Moschella, told THE CITY that Dym was just doing his job keeping New Yorkers safe. 

“What his detractors or critics classify as aggressive or problematic policing is anything but that,” said Moschella. “He wasn’t a lieutenant to sit back and watch what was occurring up in those neighborhoods, in the 40 Precinct, in the 41 Precinct, and sit back and just let it happen.”

Moschella added that while Dym retired on his own timeline, he had gotten the CCRB’s message loud and clear that his method of policing wasn’t appreciated for its effectiveness in reducing crime.

“He could not perform the type of policing that he believed was necessary, so he chose on his own volition to retire from the police department,” said Moschella. “And that is exactly what the CCRB wanted.” 

Dym, who earned nearly $216,000 in total pay last year including overtime, agreed to a negotiated settlement with the CCRB to resolve three cases in which he would have faced an administrative trial, in exchange for giving up 46 vacation days, according to CCRB spokesperson Clio Calvo-Platero. 

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell stripped Dym of 18 additional vacation days last week, following an administrative trial earlier in the year where a judge found him guilty of a number of instances of misconduct in one case but not another. 

Neither NYPD nor CCRB officials specified which charges the judge upheld. 

One of the two cases in the trial stemmed from an incident where, in order to strip-search a man in a holding cell after police had found him carrying a dime-bag of marijuana, Dym allegedly punched the man repeatedly, pushed his knees into the man’s body as the man lay in a fetal position and performed the cavity search, according to the CCRB.

The board, which investigates and prosecutes instances of improper use of force, abuse of authority and other misconduct by police, had sought Dym’s termination at that trial, according to Calvo-Platero. But the administrative judge found Dym not guilty of the most serious charges.

Since 2012, when the Civilian Complaint Review Board was first granted the ability to prosecute its own cases before an NYPD administrative judge, only one NYPD member has been fired based on a board probe — Daniel Pantaleo, the Staten Island officer who killed Eric Garner.

Additionally, the New York Times found in 2020 that NYPD officials downgraded or rejected the CCRB’s recommended penalties in more than 70% of the 6,900 cases of serious misconduct brought by the board across two decades.

In all cases, it’s the police commissioner who makes the final determination on discipline.

Throughout Dym’s 18-year career patrolling public housing developments in The Bronx, he accumulated 115 allegations of misconduct — of which CCRB investigators substantiated 56.

Both figures are the highest for any active duty NYPD member, records maintained by the website show.

Dym was also involved in a high-profile case that resulted in the August 2016 false arrest of activist Jose Lasalle, founder of the group Copwatch Patrol Unit, during which Lasalle’s phone secretly recorded police celebrating his detention and allegedly trumping up a felony charge of unlawful possession of a police radio. 

Lasalle, who later had all the charges against him dropped by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, said he and his group have since kept close tabs on Dym’s policing.

“The simple fact is this dude, in our eyes, is dirty,” said Lasalle, who won an $860,000 settlement from the city for his case. “He’s able to do the things he’s doing in my community — in communities where Black and brown people live — with impunity, and not be held accountable.”

20 Months, 20 Allegations

Moschella, Dym’s attorney, said Dym retired after hitting the 20-year mark when credit for his time as a U.S. Marine was counted, including combat in Iraq. He defended Dym’s approach to policing as necessary to combat crime and take guns off the street in the South Bronx.

“Was he an active police officer? Did he take his job of preventing violence and crime in the South Bronx very seriously? Absolutely” said Moschella. 

“He was out there conducting enforcement and stopping people and engaging individuals that he believed were involved in violence and crime and carrying handguns,” he added. “And of course that’s what happens when you have a very active, very involved police officer — you get complaints, you get lawsuits.”

An NYPD spokesperson noted that the penalties recommended by the CCRB in the negotiated settlement were based on the range of penalties offered in the disciplinary matrix. They said the penalty Sewell approved after Dym’s administrative trial was also based on the matrix.

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell joined Mayor Eric Adams at One Police Plaza in calling for a crackdown on untraceable guns flooding into the city, May 11, 2022.

“The NYPD holds itself and its members to the highest standards, and administers a fair and consistent disciplinary process to ensure accountability,” said the spokesperson, who didn’t provide his or her name.

Nearly all of the substantiated allegations against Dym — 52 out of the 56 — came during a flurry of complaints over a 20-month period between November 2018 and June 2020.

A month before that stretch, in October 2018, Dym had been hailed for applying a tourniquet to the arm of a 5-year-old boy who had been shot in The Bronx.

But a review by THE CITY of publicly available material, including lawsuits and videos, as well as interviews with victims and attorneys, suggests a pattern to Dym’s approach to policing that relied heavily on a forceful physical response.

Over the 20-month stretch, civilians made 20 allegations that Dym had used improper physical force. Seven of those allegations were substantiated by the CCRB.

This included the alleged March 2019 forceful body cavity search in the holding cell.

In that incident, Dym and other cops involved told CCRB investigators that force was used because the arrestee kept clenching his body and verbally refusing the search, but investigators said that video cameras in the cell persuaded them otherwise.

The victim in that case sought medical attention and was diagnosed with pain, abrasions to his face and body and swelling of his face, according to a summary of the incident contained in a CCRB report.

“The investigation determined that the Lt. Dym and [another officer’s] use of force was not reasonable given the circumstances and that strip search of the individual was also unreasonable given the circumstances,” the report said.

Moschella said it would take a long time to discuss the merits of every incident that led to a complaint or lawsuit, but he noted in response to an observation that the alleged victims in three videos were Black men that “the suggestion that any action he took was based on anyone’s race is absurd and absolutely not true.”

Less than a month after that incident, Dym was involved in two arrests on the same day — August 22, 2019 — that resulted in lawsuits that alleged false arrest and improper force against Dym.

In one lawsuit, Monae Grant alleged she was sitting talking with friends outside the John Adams Houses in Longwood when a group of cops approached. Within minutes, Dym pulled her arm behind her back so hard to apply handcuffs that she heard a “pop,” the lawsuit alleges.

The ongoing lawsuit alleges Grant’s injury required surgery and “will cause her pain and inhibit the full use of her right hand for the rest of her life.”

Lawyers for the NYPD, Dym and another officer denied the allegations in court and asserted that the plaintiff’s own conduct contributed to her injuries. 

Dym was hit with another lawsuit in December, followed by complaints containing 18 allegations across February, March and May of 2020 — mostly for abuse of authority — that were substantiated by the CCRB.

‘Sprayed in the Face’

On May 26, 2020, video footage posted to YouTube shows, Dym allegedly punched Darryl Walker numerous times in the head outside of his apartment complex in The Bronx. The events that led up to the encounter weren’t recorded, and the incident wasn’t investigated by the CCRB because no complaint was submitted. 

A lawsuit filed by Walker, which recently settled for $115,000, says he complied with orders by police to back away from the scene of police activity — but was attacked by Dym anyway.

“The video speaks for itself,” said his attorney, Elliot Kay. “Mr. Walker was sprayed in the face with chemical spray and punched in the face.”

Kay added that the charges cops filed against Walker over the incident were dismissed and sealed.

Just nine days later, Dym was at the scene of a protest in The Bronx following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, where video footage and photographs captured Dym swinging his baton at protesters who were penned in on all sides by cops with nowhere to move.

At one point Dym clambered onto the roof of a car in order to get closer to the protesters, although it’s not clear from the video if his baton hit anyone or whether the video captured the actions that sparked the investigation. 

But the CCRB’s substantiated findings from that day are among the three cases Dym pleaded guilty to last week — for improperly using his nightstick as a club and damaging property — and which made up 15 vacation days of the total he lost.

Human Rights Watch later determined the police action in Mott Haven on June 4, 2020, violated international human rights laws.

Delayed Process

The disciplinary process has long been criticized by police reform advocates as a problem, not just for the relatively light punishments meted out on cops but also the length of time it takes to get there.

Even Pantaleo’s termination came more than five years after Garner’s killing.

In 2019, an independent panel formed to review the NYPD disciplinary process found, among other issues, that it took on average 702 days for the CCRB to settle cases with officers once charges have been brought.

“Delay in processing of NYPD disciplinary cases is a significant issue,” the panel found. 

That timeline doesn’t include the 18 months that the CCRB is given to investigate cases and bring charges against NYPD members — a statute of limitations that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended by at least six months during the COVID pandemic.

The most recent Mayor’s Management Report, released Friday, shows that in the year ending June 30, it took 591 days on average to complete a CCRB investigation, up from 190 in fiscal year 2018.  

While Dym’s streak of substantiated misconduct started in November 2018, most of his cases didn’t result in charges brought by CCRB’s prosecutors until February or March of this year.

Meanwhile, the NYPD has a risk management group that is supposed to track complaints against officers, including lawsuits, to determine whether any intervention of their policing is required.

But the NYPD press office wouldn’t say whether that unit flagged Dym at any point in his career.

John Teufel, an attorney who formerly served as an investigator at the CCRB, said Dym’s ability to retire rather than face termination is a symbol of what’s wrong with the NYPD’s disciplinary system. 

“Dym is kind of a shining example of how officers with terrible histories just continue to go unpunished and even rise in their careers,” said Teufel. 

“These grinding wheels of bureaucracy and layers and layers of protections for these officers, it renders the CCRB effectively powerless,” he added. “In a system that was designed to ensure a police force that is responsible and plays by the rules, Dym would have been out on his ass five years ago — but it’s just not the system we have.”

This story is not covered under THE CITY’s standard republishing policy. Please contact Vania Andre,, with inquiries about republishing.

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Local community protests after detective hits young woman in Harlem on video



Mayor Eric Adams is backing the 32nd Precinct after NYPD officer Kendo Kinsey was shown on camera knocking 19-year-old Tamani Crum to the ground in Harlem last Tuesday. 

“I think those officers on the scene showed great restraint,” said Adams. “They did what the system called for. They didn’t turn off their body cameras, that’s why we have footage of what happened. I am not going to tell police officers to go out, apprehend dangerous people, and then come later when they did what they were supposed to do and not say you protected the people of this city.”

The disturbing incident occurred on the intersection of West 136th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard when police were arresting 22-year-old Elvin James. The initial cell phone video, along with body camera footage show Crum and Kinsey tussling before the officer thrust his arm out. Early reporting claimed a punch was thrown, although Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell says Kinsey struck with an open hand. The smaller Crum was knocked off her feet, landed on her head and subsequently arrested. 

She’s currently charged with one misdemeanor count of second degree obstruction of governmental administration, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Her lawyer could not be reached. Local council member Kristin Richardson Jordan condemned the officer’s behavior.

“We cannot ignore the systemic problems that continue to plague our community,” she said in a statement. “Lack of communication between the NYPD and our residents as well as culturally relevant training and expertise is missing. There is no reason for a resident that hasn’t committed a crime to be treated like a criminal. I am deeply saddened by the excessive force used by Officer Kinsey.”

Additionally, Richardson Jordan recommended an elected civilian review board independent of the CCRB should exist to handle such a case. Members would be voted in by the communities rather than picked by governing officials. 

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