An internal New York Police Department review has found an official violated department guidelines when he used pepper spray on Occupy Wall Street protesters last month, a person with knowledge of the investigation said Tuesday.
Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna faces discipline of a loss of 10 vacation days after the Sept. 24 incident near Union Square, shortly after the now-global protests began in a tiny private plaza in lower Manhattan, the person said. The person had direct knowledge of the review but was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The demonstrators had meandered from their base in Zuccotti Park and spilled over into the streets, blocking traffic. Video from the protests shows a small group of mostly women corralled by orange netting used by officers to control crowds. Bologna approaches and, seemingly without warning, blasts the cluster with pepper spray. Two of the women crumple on the sidewalk in pain. One screams.
The incident helped propel the movement into the national spotlight. It sparked outrage by demonstrators and a collection of gawkers who were watching the protests online through streaming footage. Video has played an important role in the demonstration in New York, with police and protesters carrying cameras in nearly every encounter. The footage can go both ways, showing possible missteps by protesters and possible misconduct by police, and it can be heavily edited. Generally, the demonstrations have been peaceful.
Bologna, who works in Manhattan South, has the option to appeal the decision. His union said Bologna's actions were motivated by his concern for the safety of officers under his command and the safety of the public.
"Deputy Inspector Bologna is disappointed at the results of the department investigation," said Roy Richter, president of the NYPD captain's endowment association. "His actions prevented further injury and escalation of tumultuous conduct. To date, this conduct has not been portrayed in its true context."
A lawyer for one of the women, 24-year-old Kaylee Dedrick, said Bologna had assaulted her and he should be arrested.
"The crux of Deputy Inspector Bologna's offense is not that he mishandled pepper spray or shot off mist in a careless fashion; the crux of Bologna's conduct is he engaged in a deliberate assault against five innocent people," attorney Ron Kuby said.
Shortly after the incident, the hacker group Anonymous, which is affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, posted on its website Bologna's address, his phone number and where his children went to school, among other personal details. Police department officials said that was out of line and deplorable.
Pepper spray is relatively low on the spectrum of force available to officers. The patrol guide lists several situations where an officer may use it, including for protection. The guide prohibits the use of pepper spray against subjects who don't actively resist.
Kuby met with the Manhattan district attorney's office earlier this week to ask for an investigation. Other lawyers representing the hundreds of people arrested in the monthlong protest have asked for disorderly conduct charges to be dropped. Seven hundred protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge a week after the women were pepper sprayed. Other demonstrations resulted in significantly fewer arrests.
The demonstrations have sparked similar protests around the world, where demonstrators have had more significant clashes with police. In Italy, riots broke out in Rome, and on Monday, Italian police conducted raids throughout the country against suspected anarchists and their sympathizers.