Thursday, June 4, 2009

Roosevelt Island Ball Field Permit Dispute Leads To Handcuffing and Arrest Of Parent By Public Safety Department

Images From Main Street WIRE of Arrest Chronology

Last Sunday I received a Public Safety Report that indicated there was a Disorderly Conduct arrest made during a dispute at one of Roosevelt Island's ball fields and later that day was told by a resident that it involved a controversy between a local little league team and an off Island group that was waiting to use the field. I was also told that one of the parents, affectionately know as "Blue Beard", was handcuffed by Public Safety officers and lead away followed by crying children and their parents.

Images From Main Street WIRE of Arrest Chronology

He was later released.

Images From Main Street WIRE of Arrest Chronology

Knowing that a similar protest happened last month, but without an arrest, and realizing the potential incendiary nature of this event, I waited to publish an account until more information became available.

I then sent the following inquiry to Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department Director Keith Guerra:
I understand there was another incident over the weekend concerning protesting parents and little leaguers at the ball fields and that one parent was arrested and handcuffed.

The 5/30 Public Safety Incident Report advises of the following:

Disorderly Conduct - PSD responded to North Town park for dispute over baseball field 1 male subject arrested, summons and released.

Do you care to comment or provide any additional details regarding the incident?
Mr. Guerra responded:
The incident was over who had proper permission to use a ballfield. A group of youngsters were using the field. When another group appeared with a proper permit in-hand, they told the group on the field that their time was up. The group on the field refused to relinquish the field, so the Public Safety Department was called.

When the Officers responded, they were shown the proper documentation for the oncoming group. They asked the group on the field if they had any documentation, to which the response was , "No." They had already run over the start time of the oncoming group, which was 1:30PM, so they were asked to turn over the field.

Apparently, everyone complied except for one man. He insisted on making this about the Public Safety Department and not about the fact that his group did not have permission to be on the field. When asked politely to leave the field, like the others had peacefully done, he refused and began taking pictures of the Public Safety Officers. The Arresting Officer explained to him that a group had shown proper documentation for the field, but he could care less. Continuing to remain on the field snapping pictures of the officers, he was again asked to leave the confines of the field or he would be placed under arrest. This still did not engage the man, so he was removed and placed under arrest for Disorderly Conduct.

Please explain to your readers that the Public Safety Department does not issue permits for field usage and does not police the use of the fields unless there is a conflict. To resolve conflicts, our officers will intervene to ascertain if someone or group has an official permit and will grant that person or group access to the area which they have properly secured.

As you know, our officers have undergone extensive training and their level of professionalism has increased. There are still some residents who want to make issues with the Public Safety Department - when all our officers are trying to do is their job. It is not our wish to make arrests, but some folks don't understand the consequences to their actions. Order must be kept and we are charged with that difficult duty.
To try and get a more complete picture of the story, I contacted Blue Beard, Mr. Adib Mansour, a well known and respected member of the community who confirmed to me that he was the parent arrested and that he was not acting in any disorderly manner but merely taking pictures documenting the behavior of the Public Safety officers and that there was physical and verbal abuse on the part of the Public Safety Officers after Mr. Mansour took their pictures. Mr. Mansour also indicated that he was preparing a statement describing his view of the event.

I waited to publish until Mr. Mansour's completed his statement which was made available online yesterday by the Main Street Wire together with a "Draft Report" by it's editor, which attempts to provide a balanced description of this troubling incident based upon the currently available information.

Below are excerpts from Mr. Mansour 4 page statement:
Again on May 30, the Roosevelt Island Little League game ended before the completion of the bottom of the last inning because of RIOC’s field rental policy (which does not take into consideration games that go to overt-time) and the fact that the field, as in previous weeks, was not ready on time. The day ended with dozens of children out side the Public Safety office, some crying hysterically, mostly all afraid, confused and angry.

...In what I heard as a sarcastic tone, one of the off-island players asked the kids and parents to leave the field “before you get seriously hurt.” I was in the process of leaving the field with the rest of the remaining crowd, taking occasional pictures, when I spotted the two Public Safety officers approaching.

Upon their arrival, I stopped to take a picture of the officer dismounting his bike –officer Wilson Toro- who walked towards the crowd and, directing his words to me, he said, “leave the field”. He then came closer to me and, louder, said, “I told you to leave the field,” to which I responded, “Not before I take this last picture of the kids being forced out of the field in this manner” –perhaps I should have phrased it better to avoid any misunderstanding of my peaceful intentions- and proceeded in taking his picture as well as the Roosevelt Island parents and children in the immediate background. Officer Toro then pushed me, in my ribs, saying, “I give you 10 seconds to leave.” I turned, in pain, and said, “Don’t touch me.” He responded, “You don’t want me to touch you? I’ll show you what that means.” He dangled his handcuffs in front of my face. He twisted my arms to the back and locked the handcuffs very tight on my wrists.
Read the whole statement.

Yesterday afternoon, following the WIRE's publication of this report, a meeting was convened in which RIOC President Steve Shane, Public Safety Department Chief Guerra/other members of the PS Department, Main Street WIRE Editor Dick Lutz, RIRA President Frank Farance, RIOC Counsel Ken Leitner, RIOC VP Fernando Martinez and myself attended. Mr. Shane and Mr. Guerra expressed displeasure with Mr. Lutz's reporting of the incident as being inflammatory and inaccurate. Mr. Lutz responded, correctly in my view, that his reporting was accurate, based upon the best currently available information and would have included additional information had Public Safety Director Guerra responded to subsequent email messages.

Following the meeting Mr. Guerra sent the following message to Mr. Lutz and the other meeting attendees:
First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge that the incident which occurred on Saturday was unfortunate. Although there are several topics involved here, the one that most concerns me is the fact that the children had to witness a coach/parent being placed under arrest. I never want children to have a negative view of Law Enforcement and try hard to encourage positive interaction with the youngsters on the island. Suffice it to say, this incident will sit with those particular children for a while and that is truly unfortunate. I have no doubt that the subject who was summonsed is probably a nice man. From the accounts I received, he is respected in the community. Being human, I believe he made an error in judgement.

The Public Safety Department does not police the field or room usage permitted by RIOC. However, in a time of conflict, we will intervene to keep order. In this case, the officers were called to the scene of a dispute. A complainant, who was the recipient of obscene language and threats, made the call to Public Safety. When the officers responded, the copmplainant approached the officers who arrived. There was apparently alot of commotion at the field, but a legitimate permit for the field was produced. The holder of the permit asked that it be enforced. The officers tried to do their best in handling the situation and while I will not try and "Monday Morning Quarterback" them, I will also not try to protect them if I feel they did not carry out my objectives in conducting themselves in a professional manner.

You and I had an e-mail exchange, which is probably not the best way to communicate. After giving you my statement, which I believed to be sufficiently the end of our discussion, you sent another e-mail asking me if I would answer seven (7) questions for your coverage of this incident. Before I could provide the answers, you went ahead and printed an article without the information you sought to have included in it. I feel this was unfair. I have provided the answers to your questions below.

1. Before PSD arrived on the scene, the off-island players agreed to allow the children on the field to finish their game (which apparently had only a half-inning to go), but a PSO stood on the pitcher's mound, prevented play, and overruled that agreement. (Are you aware of this?) Why was this an appropriate course of action?

The supposed agreement, according to the Complainant in the incident, was never reached. Mr. Scott Batton, who initiated the call to Public Safety, approached the responding officers and told them he had a permit that was being ignored by the Little League coaches and parents. Obscenities and threats of bodily harm were spewed in his direction and all he wanted was to take the field his group had paid to use. When asked by me if any agreement was reached or could have been reached to allow the children to finish their game, he replied, "No. This was not the first time that the group had run over into the permitted time that our group had properly secured and we wanted them off the field." The officers had no other recourse other than to oblige the client in possession of a RIOC issued permit which they paid for.

2. A dependable witness says that Officer Toro bicycled across the field and "cut off" a group of residents who were in the process of leaving the field as ordered, then directed his remarks at Adib Monsour, who had photographed him. (Contrary to accounts on which you have apparently relied, he did not "start" taking photos at that point; the photographic record shows that he had taken many pictures before then.) Were you aware of this action by the PSO? Or do you have information to the contrary?

The information that I gathered indicates that all parties who were asked to leave the confines of the field obliged, except for the subject who was placed under arrest. They did not seem like they wanted to, but they did. The subject who was arrested refused to leave the confines of the field, continuously snapping pictures of Officer Toro and was arrested for refusing to disperse when given the lawful order to do so. My question is why couldn't the subject just oblige, like the others had done?

3. Another witness reports that, while Officer Toro was taking Mr. Monsour to PSD HQ, he told a plainclothes PSD officer to "Arrest that one, the one taking pictures." (The person to whom he had reference had taken over Mr. Monsour's camera and he was photographing the walk to PSD.) Does this suggest to you that photography, not misbehavior, might have been the PSO's concern?

This does not suggest to me that the photography was the officer's concern. The information that I gathered does not indicate that anyone else was to be arrested. Had an officer asked another to arrest someone, that person would have likely been taken into custody as well. This did not occur. In the arresting officer's account of the incident, he cited the other individual taking pictures, but indicated that the man was compliant to the verbal direction not to stand in the path of the escort.

4. Mr. Monsour claims, and is backed up by witnesses, that he did not refuse an order to vacate the field but, instead, merely said he wanted to take another picture, and that it was at that point that he was "shoved" by Officer Toro, and that only then did he raise his voice somewhat, saying "Take your hands off me." It is alleged that at that point Officer Toro dangled his handcuffs before Mr. Monsour, said he was about to "teach you a lesson," and cuffed him. Does this square with information you have received from your officers?

No. This does not square with the information I received from the Officers or the Complainant. Again, I ask the question, why couldn't he just vacate the field when asked to do so, like everyone else did. The accounts I received were that the subject was asked at least three (3) separate times to comply and was met with resistance. Corroborating stories state that the subject even asked Officer Toro if he was going to arrest him, to which Officer Toro explained the consequences of not complying.

5. When asked by a resident to release Mr. Monsour, Officer Toro is reported to have said, "He disrespected me," giving that as a reason for the arrest. Is "disrespect" acequate cause, in PSD procedures, for an arrest?

In my experience, officers do not release subjects in custody because they are asked by residents to do so. Of course, "disrepect" alone is not adequate cause to arrest someone, however, if the totality of circumstances includes disrespecting an officer, the person can be charged.

6. When Mr. Monsour informed Officer Toro, at PSD HQ, that he is diabetic and needed food to avoid insulin shock from his morning medication, Officer Toro (who said he, too, is diabetic, indicating he knows the risks involved) is alleged to have said, twice, "I'll wait until you faint. Then I'll call an ambulance and take you to the hospital. Then I'll take you to prison." The second time, this was said within the hearing of other PSD officers. (One, to his credit, is said to have responded by getting Mr. Monsour a sugary drink, paying for it himself.) Does this square with information you've received from officers present at the time?

This does not square with the statements of the officers, who independantly stated that Officer Toro did inform the subject that he was also a diabetic and asked if the subject was ok. When the response was that he felt he needed something with sugar, Officer Payne got the subject a soda. After drinking most of it, the subject then threw the bottle on the floor. When asked by Officer Payne if he was ok, the subject said, "Yes." and thanked Officer Payne for the drink. Shortly thereafter, the subject again stated that he was diabetic and Officer Toro indicates that he told him that if he needed any medical attention, it would be provided for him before being taken to Central Booking. After conferring with his supervisor, Officer Toro wrote a Summons instead of processing the subject through the system.

7. What specific disorderly conduct is alleged?

The Statute includes seven (7) subdivisions, of which I will cite three (3):
A person is guilty of Disorderly Conduct when, with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof: 3.) he/she uses abusive or obscene language; 6.) he/she congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order to disperse; 7.) he/she creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose. Disoederly Conduct is a Violation.

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I would also like to ask you to correct a quote of mine where you printed that I stated that "prisoners are not allowed to make or receive phone calls." What I said to you was that "when someone is taken into custody, under arrest, they are not permitted to use their cell-phone."

Going forward it is my hope and the hope of the many residents I have spoken with over the last couple of days that the community can move forward in a positive direction. Everyone must pitch in to be part of the solution - not be part of the problem. I vow to continue providing training for my officers and to continue with the information summits and safety programs I have initiated. Hopefully, the community can contribute to fostering a better relationship with the Law Enforcement Officers who serve their community with pride.
This is an ongoing story but everyone should just stay calm, try to figure out exactly what happened and take measures to make sure it does not happen again. If you were there and witnessed what occurred please share your thoughts on what exactly occurred.

Here is the link again to the Main Street WIRE's report on the incident.

A blogger My Feet Only Walk Forward was one of the players on the off-Island team waiting to use the field and writes the following:
... The field on which we would be playing was beautiful. A stand of birch trees at one end. A natural outcropping of native rock to the side of the fields. And raging idiotic local residents screaming racial and homophobic epithets out of their apartment windows.

Turns out when the other teams first arrived the locals had decided that despite the fact that our league had purchased permits to play on the fields that we should bow to them and allow their little rug rats to play ball on the field. It got so rowdy that the police came and arrested one of the parents. The families scattered, but mid-way through the second game of the first set of teams playing, we were treated to a whole host of obscenities. The best part ever was that the man screaming these things was sitting in the window with his two little boys standing next to him. That's what I call good parenting.

I wanted to scale the building and bitch slap him.

It also didn't help that a guy from one of the other teams playing was a complete and total drama queen, and was advising the middle of the day...surrounded by amputees and old walk in groups and carry our bats in our hands. Responding to idiocy with barely veiled racism is not necessarily the way to go. ...
UPDATE - 6/8 - Now available are statements made by a Roosevelt Island Little League Coach and the Permit Holder who contacted Public Safety Department.


Anonymous said...

It is really disappointing to read how Mr. Lutz and Mr. Farance went into attack mode so quickly. A commentator on the RI360 blog hit the mail on its head: none of the adults showed impulse control. It escalated way too quickly. It seems the kids involved were the most mature people present at that time.

Brandon Lacy Campos said...

I am the author of My Feet Only Walk Forward...thank you for your call for calmness and fact finding in this incident.

The truth is that while sitting waiting for my game to begin, I was bombarded by islanders screaming things like "faggot" "cracker" and other obscenities out of a window facing the fields with his children in plain sight alongside him. (Ps I am not white, so the cracker was not aimed at me).

I wrote in a comment on my blog in response to folks I believe must be locals that under appropriate circumstances I would have supported the right of local use to the field. This wasn't such a case. And while the gentleman arrested may have been only taking pictures other parents were verbally threatening to members of the teams on the field at the time.

This entire incident has been extremely unfortunate, but the truth is that those of us that were NOT part of the first group of BASL players (we played after the first two teams) still were the target of hatred, bile, and vitriol. It was not a pleasent experience on what I thought was a stunning island.

-Brandon Lacy Campos

Anonymous said...

based on the statement "Blue Beard, Mr. Adib Mansour, a well known and respected member of the community",

he is nothing but muckraker and loser, trying to be a political wannabe.

based on his statement "Officer Toro then pushed me, in my ribs, saying, “I give you 10 seconds to leave.” I turned, in pain, and said, “Don’t touch me.”

You turned in pain? What are you a little baby? Can't take a little push?

Granted I can not stand half of the public safety officers, I would never have the audacity to not take a direct order from a police (or whatever they may be) officer, especially if I was in the wrong.

You sir, and the majority of the crybabies on the island need to grow up or move out.

-Michal Z

Anonymous said...

I don't get how people don't understand that if Public Safety or the Police are called to assist someone or some people in need, that they are going to have to give a certain amount of commands to maintain order.

Then when they come to resolve the issue(s), people don't want to listen to or respect what they say. Instead they bombard the officers with how they should do their job. Does anyone like someone that is not in their field to come and tell them how to do their job? I think not. They have a tough job, which includes resolving disputes between people. Most times, one side is not going to agree with the outcome. Come on neighbor's, respect the job these officers have to do.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last blogger and I also had an opportunity to read Mr. Farance's letter. This guy needs to see someone professionally. His comments were so off-the-wall, I thought I was reading a Fiction Novel written by a psychopath. Torture? Wow...and to think he was voted in to head the Resident's Association.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hey RIRA... You are now bigger than you've ever been before. You can accomplish great things for the residents on the island. But, you are led by a malicious idiot who is tarnishing your reputation and you need to do something about it. Get rid of Farance or he will continue to be part of this community's problems & bring you down as well.