“I was scared because this shouldn’t happen at all, this, this shouldn’t happen to anyone. These are the people who should be looking out for you and protecting you, and, and this is happening to me.”
That’s what Brain Garcia of Commack said about the day he said he was illegally stopped and searched by Suffolk police in May 2016.
Garcia said, “What they did to me on the side of the road, for people to see too, was… not only embarrassing, but… it was traumatic for my eyes.”
In an interview with News 12, along with his lawyer, Fred Brewington, Garcia said that while driving from Commack to Babylon, he was stopped when turning onto Sunken Meadow Parkway.
“It went from normal to traumatically terrifying five minutes after my pullover,” according to Garcia.
Garcia said he handed over his license, registration and two PBA cards from his father and brother – a retired NYPD detective and a Port Authority officer.
According to Garcia, “I was asking them if I was being detained for something, and they refused to answer me and I would ask why I was stopped?”
Garcia, who at the time said he only had tattoos on his fingers, believes he has a racial profile.
“The first thing they saw, when the lights were flashing in my car, was my tattoos. They told me, ‘Are you MS, Chico?’ And, in my head, I’m Puerto Rican, in my head, I was like, wow, this is racist. “
Garcia said he was handcuffed and forced to undress on the side of the avenue, in view of passing cars. He said, “Now I’m in my boxer briefs and the cops are over there, opening my boxer briefs and putting down all the bright flashlights down there.”
With tears streaming down his face as he recounted what he said had happened to him, Garcia said, “I don’t know where they expect me to put these things, but they just didn’t find anything, and it was all for nothing.”
According to Garcia, he filed a police report and a complaint two days after the stop.
“In the end, they told me not to practice law and I thought it was a little weird that they would investigate and contact me, which I never heard from them again,” Garcia said. .
“This is a story that is heard over and over again by people of color, by people who are mistreated on the basis of their last name or the color of their skin,” said attorney Brewington of Hempstead.
The attorney filed tens of millions of dollars in civil suit against Suffolk County, the police department, two police officers and three detectives. The lawsuit alleges that there were several violations of Garcia’s civil rights.
“No police reports immediately made of this stop, no records kept of how this man was treated,” Brewington said. “A complete denial that he was searched on the side of a major highway.”
This type of alleged incident is why Brewington told News 12 that Suffolk and Nassau need a civil complaints review board or CCRB.
“A civil complaints review board would allow for an independent body that has no ties to the police department,” Brewington said.
But as News 12 reported, no police department has included a CCRB in reform plans, despite calls for it by community leaders and members of groups who continue to demand comprehensive police reform.
Veronique Bailey is the president of the Huntington branch of the NAACP and spoke to News 12 at a rally a year after George Floyd’s death.
“A truly civil commission separate and separate from the police system is needed,” said Bailey.
“Right now the idea of enforcement police is just one of them, to oversee and stamp things,” said Jeremy Joseph of LI United to Transform Policing & Community Safety. “Policing the police themselves is not acceptable.”
Across the Long Island border, New York City has a CCRB.
According to the National Association for Civil Oversight of Law Enforcement, the cities of Schenectady and Albany also have civil and community review boards.
Brewington believes a CCRB in Suffolk may have helped Garcia.
“There is no accountability here, none of these officers as far as I know have had any repercussions for treating a citizen the way they treated this young man and that’s a problem. And that’s a problem that continues to exist in our system,” Brewington said.
Brian Garcia, through tears, said he hopes the process will result in accountability.
“I respect their work and what they do for a living, but what they did to me, abusing their power, intimidating me the way they did, I just hope they don’t do it to anyone ever again.”
When it came to Mr. Garcia’s case, News 12 contacted Suffolk County and was told, “The police department does not comment on pending litigation.”
In the meantime, the reform plan presented by Suffolk creates a civil oversight review process that will be administered by the county’s Human Rights Commission. This is different from a formal review board.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told News 12 that he thinks the oversight already in place, which includes internal affairs, is sufficient.