‘Can I buy you dinner?’: Official argues on-duty cops should be allowed romantic overtures

The comments came during a hearing about guidelines for investigating sexual misconduct allegations


By Rocco Parascandola
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A member of New York City's Civilian Complaint Review Board raised eyebrows during a recent virtual meeting when he suggested that if NYPD cops are prohibited from flirting with the public while on duty many officers would never meet their future spouses.

The comment was made by Frank Dwyer, a former NYPD cop, during a Feb. 10 hearing to discuss guidelines it will follow when investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against cops.

Dwyer suggested the word “unwanted” or other words such as “aggressive” or “rude” be added to the watchdog group’s definition of sexual misconduct. The CCRB is charged with investigating complaints from the public about NYPD cops.

The watchdog group in 2018 adopted a resolution allowing it to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against police officers but the new initiative was stalled by a police union lawsuit and a court ruling that the CCRB needed to seek public comment first.

After holding public hearings, the new initiative is now rolling forward, leading the agency to come up with parameters of what it thinks rises to the level of sexual misconduct for cops.

Dwyer objected to the CCRB defining all on-duty sexual or romantic propositions as misconduct. He noted a decades-old decision in which a federal judge said a panhandler cannot be charged with a crime simply for asking, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”

“To have a definition that says a sexual or romantic proposition, to me, is the equivalent of ‘Can I buy you dinner?’” Dwyer said. “And I can assure you about one-third of the Police Department would not have a partner in life if they were not allowed to say those lines.”

The comment was followed by about 14 seconds of silence, before the group’s chairman, Fred Davie, noted approvingly of a recent case in which the agency substantiated a misconduct claim against a cop who asked someone out in a way that “wasn’t aggressive.”

Two board members also voiced opposition to Dwyer’s suggestion.

Esmeralda Simmons said no civil servant — not just police officers — should be involved in any proposition, “be they sexual or romantic, to the people they’re supposed to serve.”

“I think it’s unprofessional,” Simmons said. “And it’s out of place.”

Board member Mabre Stahly-Butts said there is a power dynamic in place when a cop deals with a civilian and “the idea that somehow we can gauge what is not wanted, I think, is a miscalculation and understanding of how power plays out.”

The rules were adopted without Dwyer’s proposed amendment.

On Wednesday, Dwyer said in an email that he agreed that cops “when interacting in a power-oriented relationship, for example ... should not attempt to establish personal relationships.”

But he said not every case is like that, such as an officer who regularly is at a particular hospital and asks a doctor, ”who she has met 10 times, to have a cup of coffee.”

“The current definition adopted by the board defines this example as a disciplinary matter and existing policy allows another person to make a complaint about it, even if the doctor is delighted to receive the invitation,” Dwyer said.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.

The CCRB has 13 board members, plus one vacant seat. Dwyer is one of three police commissioner designees.

(c)2021 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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