This article was originally published on Sep 19 5:00am EDT by THE CITY

NYPD Lt. Eric Dym, right in white shirt, was disciplined by the department for acts that included improperly using his nightstick as a club when responding to Black Lives Matter protesters in The Bronx in June 2020. | Gregory Berg

An NYPD lieutenant who had been facing discipline for 52 substantiated allegations of misconduct is retiring instead  — avoiding penalties in three cases and getting docked 64 vacation days in five others, THE CITY has learned. 

The Civilian Complaint Review Board had sought to have Lt. Eric Dym terminated at a disciplinary trial held earlier this year. The 18-year veteran of the force had more pending misconduct allegations against him than anyone on the force, disciplinary records suggest. 

By putting in his retirement papers, Dym will avoid facing discipline for 29 of the charges brought by the CCRB — including four instances of pointing a gun at someone, three incidents of improper physical force and one case of making a false official statement.

The presumed penalty for a false statement alone is termination, under a disciplinary matrix implemented by the police department last year.

Dym has also been named in more than a dozen lawsuits filed against the NYPD, a number of them alleging assault by Dym and other cops, which have resulted in over $1.5 million in settlements so far, records show.

Videos posted online and obtained by THE CITY document multiple instances in recent years where Dym appears to be seen punching and kicking Black men — including with blows to the head and face — in encounters that ended in the men’s arrest.

The lieutenant’s attorney, James Moschella, told THE CITY that Dym was just doing his job keeping New Yorkers safe. 

“What his detractors or critics classify as aggressive or problematic policing is anything but that,” said Moschella. “He wasn’t a lieutenant to sit back and watch what was occurring up in those neighborhoods, in the 40 Precinct, in the 41 Precinct, and sit back and just let it happen.”

Moschella added that while Dym retired on his own timeline, he had gotten the CCRB’s message loud and clear that his method of policing wasn’t appreciated for its effectiveness in reducing crime.

“He could not perform the type of policing that he believed was necessary, so he chose on his own volition to retire from the police department,” said Moschella. “And that is exactly what the CCRB wanted.” 

Dym, who earned nearly $216,000 in total pay last year including overtime, agreed to a negotiated settlement with the CCRB to resolve three cases in which he would have faced an administrative trial, in exchange for giving up 46 vacation days, according to CCRB spokesperson Clio Calvo-Platero. 

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell stripped Dym of 18 additional vacation days last week, following an administrative trial earlier in the year where a judge found him guilty of a number of instances of misconduct in one case but not another. 

Neither NYPD nor CCRB officials specified which charges the judge upheld. 

One of the two cases in the trial stemmed from an incident where, in order to strip-search a man in a holding cell after police had found him carrying a dime-bag of marijuana, Dym allegedly punched the man repeatedly, pushed his knees into the man’s body as the man lay in a fetal position and performed the cavity search, according to the CCRB.

The board, which investigates and prosecutes instances of improper use of force, abuse of authority and other misconduct by police, had sought Dym’s termination at that trial, according to Calvo-Platero. But the administrative judge found Dym not guilty of the most serious charges.

Since 2012, when the Civilian Complaint Review Board was first granted the ability to prosecute its own cases before an NYPD administrative judge, only one NYPD member has been fired based on a board probe — Daniel Pantaleo, the Staten Island officer who killed Eric Garner.

Additionally, the New York Times found in 2020 that NYPD officials downgraded or rejected the CCRB’s recommended penalties in more than 70% of the 6,900 cases of serious misconduct brought by the board across two decades.

In all cases, it’s the police commissioner who makes the final determination on discipline.

Throughout Dym’s 18-year career patrolling public housing developments in The Bronx, he accumulated 115 allegations of misconduct — of which CCRB investigators substantiated 56.

Both figures are the highest for any active duty NYPD member, records maintained by the website 50-a.org show.

Dym was also involved in a high-profile case that resulted in the August 2016 false arrest of activist Jose Lasalle, founder of the group Copwatch Patrol Unit, during which Lasalle’s phone secretly recorded police celebrating his detention and allegedly trumping up a felony charge of unlawful possession of a police radio. 

Lasalle, who later had all the charges against him dropped by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, said he and his group have since kept close tabs on Dym’s policing.

“The simple fact is this dude, in our eyes, is dirty,” said Lasalle, who won an $860,000 settlement from the city for his case. “He’s able to do the things he’s doing in my community — in communities where Black and brown people live — with impunity, and not be held accountable.”

20 Months, 20 Allegations

Moschella, Dym’s attorney, said Dym retired after hitting the 20-year mark when credit for his time as a U.S. Marine was counted, including combat in Iraq. He defended Dym’s approach to policing as necessary to combat crime and take guns off the street in the South Bronx.

“Was he an active police officer? Did he take his job of preventing violence and crime in the South Bronx very seriously? Absolutely” said Moschella. 

“He was out there conducting enforcement and stopping people and engaging individuals that he believed were involved in violence and crime and carrying handguns,” he added. “And of course that’s what happens when you have a very active, very involved police officer — you get complaints, you get lawsuits.”

An NYPD spokesperson noted that the penalties recommended by the CCRB in the negotiated settlement were based on the range of penalties offered in the disciplinary matrix. They said the penalty Sewell approved after Dym’s administrative trial was also based on the matrix.

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell joined Mayor Eric Adams at One Police Plaza in calling for a crackdown on untraceable guns flooding into the city, May 11, 2022. | Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

“The NYPD holds itself and its members to the highest standards, and administers a fair and consistent disciplinary process to ensure accountability,” said the spokesperson, who didn’t provide his or her name.

Nearly all of the substantiated allegations against Dym — 52 out of the 56 — came during a flurry of complaints over a 20-month period between November 2018 and June 2020.

A month before that stretch, in October 2018, Dym had been hailed for applying a tourniquet to the arm of a 5-year-old boy who had been shot in The Bronx.

But a review by THE CITY of publicly available material, including lawsuits and videos, as well as interviews with victims and attorneys, suggests a pattern to Dym’s approach to policing that relied heavily on a forceful physical response.

Over the 20-month stretch, civilians made 20 allegations that Dym had used improper physical force. Seven of those allegations were substantiated by the CCRB.

This included the alleged March 2019 forceful body cavity search in the holding cell.

In that incident, Dym and other cops involved told CCRB investigators that force was used because the arrestee kept clenching his body and verbally refusing the search, but investigators said that video cameras in the cell persuaded them otherwise.

The victim in that case sought medical attention and was diagnosed with pain, abrasions to his face and body and swelling of his face, according to a summary of the incident contained in a CCRB report.

“The investigation determined that the Lt. Dym and [another officer’s] use of force was not reasonable given the circumstances and that strip search of the individual was also unreasonable given the circumstances,” the report said.

Moschella said it would take a long time to discuss the merits of every incident that led to a complaint or lawsuit, but he noted in response to an observation that the alleged victims in three videos were Black men that “the suggestion that any action he took was based on anyone’s race is absurd and absolutely not true.”

Less than a month after that incident, Dym was involved in two arrests on the same day — August 22, 2019 — that resulted in lawsuits that alleged false arrest and improper force against Dym.

In one lawsuit, Monae Grant alleged she was sitting talking with friends outside the John Adams Houses in Longwood when a group of cops approached. Within minutes, Dym pulled her arm behind her back so hard to apply handcuffs that she heard a “pop,” the lawsuit alleges.

The ongoing lawsuit alleges Grant’s injury required surgery and “will cause her pain and inhibit the full use of her right hand for the rest of her life.”

Lawyers for the NYPD, Dym and another officer denied the allegations in court and asserted that the plaintiff’s own conduct contributed to her injuries. 

Dym was hit with another lawsuit in December, followed by complaints containing 18 allegations across February, March and May of 2020 — mostly for abuse of authority — that were substantiated by the CCRB.

‘Sprayed in the Face’

On May 26, 2020, video footage posted to YouTube shows, Dym allegedly punched Darryl Walker numerous times in the head outside of his apartment complex in The Bronx. The events that led up to the encounter weren’t recorded, and the incident wasn’t investigated by the CCRB because no complaint was submitted. 

A lawsuit filed by Walker, which recently settled for $115,000, says he complied with orders by police to back away from the scene of police activity — but was attacked by Dym anyway.

“The video speaks for itself,” said his attorney, Elliot Kay. “Mr. Walker was sprayed in the face with chemical spray and punched in the face.”

Kay added that the charges cops filed against Walker over the incident were dismissed and sealed.

Just nine days later, Dym was at the scene of a protest in The Bronx following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, where video footage and photographs captured Dym swinging his baton at protesters who were penned in on all sides by cops with nowhere to move.

At one point Dym clambered onto the roof of a car in order to get closer to the protesters, although it’s not clear from the video if his baton hit anyone or whether the video captured the actions that sparked the investigation. 

But the CCRB’s substantiated findings from that day are among the three cases Dym pleaded guilty to last week — for improperly using his nightstick as a club and damaging property — and which made up 15 vacation days of the total he lost.

Human Rights Watch later determined the police action in Mott Haven on June 4, 2020, violated international human rights laws.

Delayed Process

The disciplinary process has long been criticized by police reform advocates as a problem, not just for the relatively light punishments meted out on cops but also the length of time it takes to get there.

Even Pantaleo’s termination came more than five years after Garner’s killing.

In 2019, an independent panel formed to review the NYPD disciplinary process found, among other issues, that it took on average 702 days for the CCRB to settle cases with officers once charges have been brought.

“Delay in processing of NYPD disciplinary cases is a significant issue,” the panel found. 

That timeline doesn’t include the 18 months that the CCRB is given to investigate cases and bring charges against NYPD members — a statute of limitations that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended by at least six months during the COVID pandemic.

The most recent Mayor’s Management Report, released Friday, shows that in the year ending June 30, it took 591 days on average to complete a CCRB investigation, up from 190 in fiscal year 2018.  

While Dym’s streak of substantiated misconduct started in November 2018, most of his cases didn’t result in charges brought by CCRB’s prosecutors until February or March of this year.

Meanwhile, the NYPD has a risk management group that is supposed to track complaints against officers, including lawsuits, to determine whether any intervention of their policing is required.

But the NYPD press office wouldn’t say whether that unit flagged Dym at any point in his career.

John Teufel, an attorney who formerly served as an investigator at the CCRB, said Dym’s ability to retire rather than face termination is a symbol of what’s wrong with the NYPD’s disciplinary system. 

“Dym is kind of a shining example of how officers with terrible histories just continue to go unpunished and even rise in their careers,” said Teufel. 

“These grinding wheels of bureaucracy and layers and layers of protections for these officers, it renders the CCRB effectively powerless,” he added. “In a system that was designed to ensure a police force that is responsible and plays by the rules, Dym would have been out on his ass five years ago — but it’s just not the system we have.”

This story is not covered under THE CITY’s standard republishing policy. Please contact Vania Andre, vandre@thecity.nyc, with inquiries about republishing.

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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