NY cop suspended for striking handcuffed suspect

Video that showed up on YouTube 2 years after incident, shows officer swinging his forearm into face of passive suspect

By Lou Michel
The Buffalo News

BUFFALO, N.Y.  — The second of three Buffalo police officers accused of using excessive force has been suspended. All three were caught on video.

Officer Anthony L. Porzio's punishment of 30 work days without pay was based on a secretly recorded video that ended up on YouTube attracting thousands of viewers. It shows Porzio swinging his forearm into the face of a handcuffed and passive drug suspect.

Arbitrator Jeffrey M. Selchick, an Albany area attorney, imposed the unpaid suspension, following a disciplinary review.

Police officials said the internal affairs investigation was delayed because the incident did not come to light until it was posted on YouTube about two years after it occurred on Dec. 11, 2010.

Nan L. Haynes, a local attorney who has represented individuals in civil rights cases against police, called the punishment insufficient.

"The question is how do we keep these things from happening without just a slap on the wrist?" Haynes said. "If we are serious about putting an end to this kind of misconduct with police officers and sheriff's deputies, the penalties have to be severe."

A backlog of other departmental disciplinary cases preceding Porzio's also contributed to the delay.

The 56-year-old officer, who joined the force in 1988, had worked in the Ferry-Fillmore District, but he recently transferred to the department's traffic division.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda declined to comment, explaining that he is prohibited from publicly addressing personnel matters.

The video shows two female officers, with guns drawn, approaching the suspect whose hands are raised and then searching the man before handcuffing him behind his back. Porzio then arrives in his patrol car and briefly speaks with one of the officers. Porzio then approaches the defendant, standing in front of another parked patrol car.

Porzio talks to the man and, without warning, slams his right forearm into the man's face. He then raises his right hand and points a finger at the suspect and appears to be lecturing him.

Porzio's punishment makes a case for citizen oversight committees to be put in place to investigate these types of incidents, said Haynes, also a University at Buffalo Law School faculty member.

"A big part of the problem is that police departments and sheriffs departments investigate themselves and they scream bloody murder when anybody suggests there should be some citizen oversight," Haynes said.

In recent years, Derenda has either fired police officers for misconduct or sought prosecution by federal authorities. The Porzio case underwent a criminal review by an outside law enforcement agency but no charges were lodged, police officials pointed out. That left police brass with the contractual disciplinary process of arbitration.

Since the 2010 incident, two other cases have occurred involving city officers recorded on video using excessive force.

In April 2014, Officer John A. Cirulli was recorded on a cellphone video striking a handcuffed man lying facedown on a sidewalk in Riverside, as the man begged not to be hit.

The incident cost Cirulli his job. He resigned and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in U.S. District Court and was sentenced to one year of probation.

He could have been sentenced to two years in prison but received a lighter sentence in exchange for working with the FBI in training other officers about the dangers of violating civil rights.

The other case is still pending. It involves Officer Corey R. Krug, whose alleged excessive force was recorded by a WKBW-TV news videographer in the early morning hours of last Thanksgiving. Krug is seen slamming a man on the hood of a car, pushing him to the pavement and repeatedly beating him with a nightstick.

Krug is suspended with pay; his case is under review.

Copyright 2015 The Buffalo News 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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