In a truly bizarre case, one New York City police department officer is
suing the city as a result of the actions of another officer.
In 2011 NYPD Detective Joseph Oquendo fell asleep in his BMW at a traffic
light. As Oquendo slept, police and EMT professionals arrived on the scene.
After sleeping for more than 10 minutes Detective Oquendo was awakened
when an officer knocked on the window of his car. Noting that there was
an open beer can in the car at the time, Oquendo was arrested on suspicion of
In the police report which was filed about the incident, NYPD sergeant
Viet Cao wrote that he had found Oquendo "slumped over the steering
wheel" upon arriving on the scene, and that he had knocked for several
minutes on the windshield before Oquendo finally awakened. Cao also said
that Detective Oquendo needed to support himself against his car in order
to stand up. All of these statements were contradicted by video of the
incident which was captured by a local surveillance camera. Oquendo was
subsequently acquitted of all charges.
As a result of what he considers a false arrest, Oquendo is now suing the
city of New York for over $2 million. Though the case has yet to go to
trial, if the city is forced to pay out as a result of the incident, it
will not be the first time Cao's actions cost the city money. In 2013
Cao arrested a film student who he believed was filming an NYPD precinct
building, though filming a public building is not illegal. The student
filed suit against the NYPD, which was later settled for an undisclosed amount.
Unfortunately, this type of behavior on the part of police officers (i.e.,
lying about the facts leading to an arrest) happens regularly. The sworn
statements of a lying police officer are difficult to overcome. In this
particular case, Detective Oquendo was lucky to have the benefit of a
video recording of the incident. Exposing the lies of a law enforcement
officer takes experience and skill in the art of cross examination.
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