After conflicting police statements on 'The Third Jihad,' a councilman calls for the NYPD spokesman's job
4:11 pm Jan. 25, 2012
The New York City Police Department's top spokesman should resign because of statements he's made that later turned out to be inaccurate, City Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn said.
The call for the resignation of Paul Browne, the department's deputy commissioner for public information, comes after Browne had to backtrack on an initial explanation of why footage of the police commissioner Ray Kelly appeared in an inflammatory film called "The Third Jihad," which was shown to nearly 1,500 police officers last year.
When the Times reported his week on the NYPD's use of the film, Browne initially said the filmmaker lifted footage from an interview Kelly did with somebody else and used it without permission. After the producer of The Third Jihad provided the New York Times with information showing Kelly had in fact participated in the making of the movie, Browne, conceded, "He's right" and "In fact, I recommended in February 2007 that Commissioner Kelly be interviewed."
In early 2011, when Tom Robbins first reported in the Village Voice that the film had been shown to police officers, Browne first said that no cops had seen it, then said it was a "wacky film" that had been shown a "couple of times," but that it was not authorized.
"This is far from the first time that he has displayed his penchant for questionable judgment, continual misrepresentation of events or blatant lying," Williams, a freshman Democrat, said in a public statement. "If this is the standard that the deputy commissioner wants to continue to represent to the taxpayers that afford him his salary, then it is time for him to be removed."
I asked Williams if an apology of some kind from Browne might be sufficient.
Williams, through a spokesman, said, Browne "should apologize. Except this is not the first time and this seems to be his m.o. So something stronger is needed. Suspension or removal."
I reached out to Browne for a response and have not heard back yet.
This is not the first time Browne has described events in ways that turned out to be inaccurate.
In October, Harry Siegel, writing in the Village Voice, catalogued some of Browne's claims that were later contradicted by witnesses or actual video.
One of the events involved Jumaane Williams himself. In September, Williams and a top aide to the city's public advocate were handcuffed and arrested after the two men entered a part of the West Indian Labor Day Parade reserved for elected officials.
The incident was videotaped and photographed by onlookers.
Browne said the use of force was needed because one of the officers on the scene said he had been punched. Williams called that a "bald-faced lie" and challenged the NYPD to prove their claim. No proof was provided.
The better-known incident happened during Occupy Wall Street, when several women detained behind police netting were pepper-sprayed.
"Pepper sprayed was used once," Browne said, according to the Times, "after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier—something was that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video."
The video was not edited, and later, more footage of that same officer using pepper spray emerged.
More recently, was Browne and Kelly's clash with the Associated Press.
Browne denied an A.P. story alleging there was a secret "Demographic Unit" that was tracking Muslim residents in and around New York. Browne strongly denied the story. On August 31, the A.P. ran a story with the following headline: "Inside the spy unit that NYPD says doesn't exist."
NYPD documents with the words "The Demographic Unit" were also published by the A.P.
Kelly has gone on to say the A.P. stories about the unit are inaccurate, but has not identified a single error in any of 27 A.P. stories on the topic.
Tomorrow, the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition for Truth and Justice will hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall, calling for the resignation of Browne and Kelly. One organizer, Linda Sarsour, told me, "The self-worth and dignity of our community is at stake here."
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