posted 2012-02-01 10:37:53

NYPD Highly Involved in Baruch Protest, In-depth Video Analysis Shows

Three officers subdue student, at least 25 NYPD in lobby 

John Bolger

News Editor

Late last semester student protesters were controversially removed from the Baruch lobby by Public Safety officers wielding batons at a Nov. 21 public hearing of the CUNY board of trustees. CUNY’s decision to use force against students has led to an uproar in faculty and staff circles and has left many with questions for the CUNY administration which have yet to be answered. One of these questions is that of the extent of NYPD participation in the removal effort. CUNY ardently maintains that the NYPD had no participation in the removal.

The Envoy has already reported, based on photographs taken in the lobby, that the NYPD was present and that a number of those present were officers of rank. However, a recent analysis of videos available online revealed the extent of NYPD participation to be much higher than previously reported, including numbers at least five times higher than originally reported as well as the direct physical involvement in student arrests.

What follows is an in-depth analysis of two videos taken from the elevated portion of the Baruch lobby, which offered an over-head view of the space where the protest and subsequent removal process took place.

The NYPD directly participated in the arrest of at least one student, one of the videos shows. As the removal effort drew to its close, Kevin Cortez was taken from the group of remaining students and pulled behind the front line of Public Safety officers, well out of the sight of any student cameras on the ground. The video shows that Cortez was pulled into the center of the lobby and onto the ground by a group consisting of one NYPD officer and three Public Safety officers.

The effort to subdue Cortez took a little more than a minute. In this amount of time, two more NYPD officers got on their hands and knees and joined the first officer and Public Safety on the ground. One of these officers entered the fray with a dive in an attempt to help subdue Cortez. This particular officer was so involved in the submission that he took off his hat and threw it aside. Various Public Safety officers helped the NYPD in this arrest, by the time the NYPD had finished with Cortez, only one Public Safety officer was actively participating on the ground. Shortly after the NYPD officers stood up and directed their attention elsewhere, two Public Safety officers took Cortez away.

Another video shows a brief incident between an NYPD lieutenant and a group of three people filming an arrest being carried out by Public Safety. The lieutenant approached the photographers and motioned for them to leave. They did not stop filming and the lieutenant proceeded to hit one of the photographer’s SLR cameras before grabbing its lens.

Public Safety also made an effort to constrain reporters inside of the lobby. One video shows Jessica Firger, a journalist from the Wall Street Journal, standing behind the front line watching an arrest in progress by Public Safety. After moving to get a better view of what was happening she was stopped by a Public Safety officer. She did not move voluntarily, and showed her NYPD press pass to the officer. Shortly thereafter a high-ranking Public Safety official wearing a suit joined the other officer and helped remove the journalist from the scene. The journalist was grabbed by her arm and pushed back behind the front line.

The same video shows that once all the student protesters were removed from the lobby, NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) officers began to film the students standing on the level above the lobby. TARU is the branch of the NYPD which has been filming the Occupy protests, as well as other arrests, in high definition for the NYPD’s records. Their style of filming in the lobby was consistent with their style in the Occupy protests; they filmed every inch of the elevated portion of the lobby in a slow manner so as not to miss a single face over-looking the officers pacing the vacated and trash-ridden lobby.

Both videos show an NYPD deputy inspector. The deputy inspector is seen walking about the lobby, stopping at times to talk with Public Safety officers, including CUNY’s university director of Public Safety William Barry, as well as other NYPD officers.

One of the videos captures the moment right before the NYPD officers began to leave the lobby. In this moment, at least 25 NYPD officers can be counted, including 1 deputy inspector, 2 lieutenants, 3 sergeants and two TARU officers. This number is comparable to estimated numbers of Public Safety officers present.

A statement released by Chancellor Matthew Goldstein the following day read, “while there were New York City police officers outside of the college building, CUNY chose to use its own Public Safety officers inside the building.” When the Envoy’s photographs were shown to Michael Arena, CUNY’s director of communications and marketing, he said, “I have seen no evidence to demonstrate that New York City Police participated in any effort to remove the protesters.”

As of this writing, CUNY’s communications office has not yet commented on the Envoy’s video analysis.

Damage Control

One week following the incident in the Baruch lobby, a regular meeting of the board of trustees was held at the same location. Allan Dobrin, executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer of CUNY, gave the results of a “preliminary review” he conducted of the events of the previous week.

“I reviewed more than a dozen videos, including those taken by students, interviewed CUNY Public Safety officials and Baruch executives who made the evacuation order,” Dobrin said in his discussion at the meeting, “and was influenced by what I personally saw in the later stages of the demonstration.”

Dobrin said that in anticipation of an increase in student protest in the weeks preceding the Nov. 21 public hearing, meetings were scheduled with the CUNY college presidents to “review the University’s priorities and what procedures should be followed during the protests including best practices in public safety and how to best allow for the opportunity to protest.” The meetings lasted between one and a half to two hours each, Dobrin said.

According to Dobrin, “Baruch, campus and University Public Safety officials became concerned that public safety was being compromised.” An account of the removal effort followed. No mention was made of the NYPD officers inside or outside of the lobby.

The Chancellor, speaking directly after Dobrin’s report, said that the University was seeking the assistance of a third-party firm to review how CUNY had handled the student protest, and to “come in with recommendations on how we can continuously improve our work, as we see this [student protest] not going away in a short period of time.” CUNY’s communications office told the Envoy that the name of this firm was Kroll.

Requests for more details as to the nature of Kroll’s services to CUNY were met with reiterations of the Chancellor’s statement quoted above, although Arena did tell the Envoy that Kroll’s review of the protests was ongoing and that when a final report was ready the University would make it public.

Kroll is a risk mitigation consultancy firm headquartered in New York City, which has been used by CUNY several times in the past. Kroll offers an overview of its services on its website which opens with “Kroll has helped clients make high-risk, high-value decisions for 40 years. We provide trusted intelligence … that help companies, investors and governments address business and legal risks, drive compliance and capitalize on opportunities.” The overview also poses the question, “when facing a dispute, will you capitalize on advantages ... or struggle with damage control?”

Kroll’s leadership has a strong police background. William J. Bratton, the company’s chairman, has an extensive police career. He was the commissioner of the NYPD as well as the Boston Police Department. He was also the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Joseph Buczek, Kroll’s chief compliance officer, served as a special agent for the FBI.

Whether or not Kroll can determine that NYPD were actively involved in the handling of the protests in the Baruch lobby is pending CUNY’s release of the review. However, Kroll’s website advertises, “Kroll works closely with the client’s senior management and its legal counsel. After evaluating the problem and clearly defining the client’s objectives, we can swiftly present a strategy designed to identify sources of information and responsibility for wrongdoing.”

The Kroll report has been released: NYPD Involvement Understated by Kroll, Chancellor Exempted for False Statements

The Envoy's original Baruch coverage: Unexpected Clash Occurs at Baruch Public Hearing