Woman Pepper Sprayed for Wanting to Pee Can Sue NYPD, Court Rules
After the New York City Police Department busted up the Occupy Wall Street camp in Zuccotti Park on Nov. 15, 2011, Brown asked NYPD officers Justin Naimoli and Theodore Plevritis where she could find a bathroom.
“What do we look like, the potty police?” one of the officers allegedly told her, telling her she “should go home” or “piss in the park.”
According to her testimony, Brown answered that she would instead wait for Starbucks to open to use the bathroom, at which point the officers asked her for identification.
Refusing to give ID for no reason, Brown asked why they wanted it – at which point Officer Plevritis grabbed Brown and told her that if she didn’t provide identification, she would be placed under arrest.
The officers claimed they had probable cause to demand Brown’s identification because they’d received a 911 call from a Starbucks employee regarding people banging on the door.
When Brown refused to hand over ID, the two officers were caught on video wrestling her to the ground and later pepper spraying her twice as she tried to pull her skirt down. Criminal charges against Brown were later dismissed.
Brown sued the police for using excessive force, and now the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan has agreed that a jury should hear the case, overruling a lower court.
The majority of a three-judge panel for the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the officers had enough reasonable suspicion to arrest Ms. Brown. There was no evidence that the arrest was retaliatory, the panel ruled.
While the appeals court said the officers were legally permitted to use force when Ms. Brown admittedly resisted arrest, the case should go to a jury to determine if the officers violated her rights when they threw her to the ground and used pepper spray twice before she submitted.
“They recognize the importance of courtesy, and if the police had been even the least bit courteous, this wouldn’t have happened,” Moskovitz said.