The actions of the NYPD officer seen punching protester Felix Rivera-Pitre in the face during last Friday's Occupy Wall Street protests are officially under investigation. According to the Guardian, the New York Civilian Complaint Review Board is looking into Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardona's use of force. "We have several ongoing investigations involving police interactions with protesters, said the CCRB's spokeswoman, Linda Sachs. Presumably included are the actions of Deputy Inspector Tony Bologna, who pepper-sprayed seemingly innocent women during protests on September 24.
However, unlike Bologna's pepper-spraying, Cardona's punch is not currently being investigated by the NYPD's own Internal Affairs Bureau. Department spokesman Paul Browne, without specifically naming Cardona, claims that Rivera-Pitre attempted to elbow the officer. The police are seeking his arrest for attempted assault on a police officer, obstructing governmental justice, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Rivera-Pitre has retained famed civil rights attorney Ron Kuby, who has advised the NYPD not to charge his client with any crime.
Cardona is also implicated in an incident shortly before Bologna's pepper-spraying, as video shows him lunging over orange netting acting as a NYPD barricade to grab a female protester by the throat, seemingly unprovoked.
Gene O'Donnell, a CUNY law professor and former NYPD officer, tells the paper that white-shirted supervisors like Cardona are in the "hottest seat" during large demonstrations. "There's friction between cops and their leaderships that gets exposed," he says. "That's when you have the potential for over-reaction from people with white shirts. It's a very difficult place for a middle manager to be."