New York City will not provide a defense attorney for Police Officer Anthony Bologna, who was caught on camera pepper-spraying Occupy Wall Street protesters and now faces a civil lawsuit.
The now-notorious cop, a 29-year veteran of the NYPD and a deputy inspector, will have to cover his own legal fees, with the help of his union, the Captains Endowment Association.
A widely seen YouTube video showed Bologna pepper spraying at least two girls at an Occupy protest, who fell to the ground, screaming and crying in pain while the officer purportedly turned and walked away.
A month after the Sept. 24 incident, a police investigation found that the cop had violated NYPD guidelines.
Patrol Guide 212-95 lists situations in which an officer may legally use pepper spray. It may only be used in situations where the officer must protect himself or another from harm, establish control of someone resisting arrest or someone trying to flee from custody, establish control of an emotionally disturbed person or prevent an attack from a dangerous animal.
Officer Bologna’s immediate punishment was a command discipline that docked his vacation by 10 days. The cop accepted the punishment, hoping he could move on with his career. But in February, his two victims filed a lawsuit against Bologna for illegally spraying them. The city, in turn, refused to protect the cop.An unrelated group of two protesters filed an additional lawsuit against the cop on Tuesday. Aside from paying for his own defense, Bologna may also be held personally liable for financial damages that could arise out of the suit.
Even though he claims he did not intend to spray the women, the city is only required to provide “representation and indemnification if the employee was acting in the discharge of his or her duties and was not in violation of any rules or regulations of his/her agency at the time in question,” said Muriel Goode-Trufant, chief of the Law Department’s Special Federal Litigation Division, in an e-mail correspondence with the Wall Street Journal.
In 1,376 federal civil rights cases pending against NYPD officers, the city has refused to cover defense costs in fewer than five per cent of cases, said Goode-Trufant. An attorney representing the pepper spray victims said she believes that the YouTube video of the incident affected the city’s decision not to defend the officer.
“If it wasn’t on video, I think it would be another he said-she said case,” the attorney said.
But the scene, which clearly shows the officer bringing two harmless protesters to their knees, is a powerful image that may have embarrassed the NYPD and the city, leading to their refusal to be associated with the defendant.