[from I-Witness Video Blog - it has photos and video clips!
 http://iwitnessvideo.info/blog/10.html ]


After 26 years on the police force, two-star NYPD Chief Bruce Smolka is retiring and leaving for a security job at Revlon. The timing of his departure is both striking and curious. Since the Street Crimes Unit which he commanded was forced to close after the killing of Amadou Diallo, Chief Smolka has had a meteoric rise within the NYPD. He is currently the borough commander of Manhattan south of 59th Street, which is the plum patrol assignment at his level within the department.

Why would Chief Smolka choose to leave now, at the height of his career, holding one of the most prestigious assignments the department has to offer?

Is it possible that Chief Smolka's impending retirement has something to do with civil rights lawsuits that have been brought against him by activists? He has been named or will be named in two separate lawsuits by women who have claimed that he used excessive and unnecessary force on them during demonstrations. National Lawyer's Guild legal observer Adrienne Wheeler intends to bring one of suits. You can see Ms. Wheeler tell her story about being manhandled by Chief Smolka here.

Does the timing of Chief Smolka's exit from NYPD have anything to do with his upcoming civil trial for using excessive force against another woman activist? A deeply disturbing video that will be introduced as evidence in the trial shows Chief Smolka kneeing Cynthia Greenberg in the head while she is engaged in passive civil disobedience.

I-Witness Video has obtained the videotape of Chief Smolka personally taking Ms. Greenberg into custody during an anti-war demonstration at the Federal Building in Manhattan on May 5, 2003. The circumstances of the civil disobedience that day were negotiated in advance with the police department, including an understanding that arrested demonstrators would receive "desk appearance tickets" (summonses) rather than being locked up overnight.

View the short clip of Chief Smolka's actions here. The sequence plays once at normal speed and then again enhanced, zoomed in closer to the action and in slow motion.

The video, shot by independent videographer Ana Nogueira, shows Ms. Greenberg seated on the ground next to other demonstrators. Ms. Greenberg is wearing an orange t-shirt in a sea of blue uniforms. Chief Smolka, wearing a navy sweater over a white shirt and a cap with distinctive gold braid on the bill, tries to pull her away from the group. He yanks at her but fails to dislodge her at first. Two other officers are also grabbing onto Ms. Greenberg. Chief Smolka grips the back of her clothing with both hands, and suddenly his knee shoots up, striking the right side of her head. Ms. Greenberg's head snaps back sharply with the impact. Her face is contorted in pain. Her right hand comes up to the part of her head where she has just been hit.

Ms. Greenberg is handcuffed off camera. The video cuts to a pair of female police officers walking with Ms. Greenberg in custody. As she passes the camera, Ms. Greenberg pauses and then blurts out, "One of the officers just called me a cunt and kicked me in the face."


Chief Smolka arrests woman at April 2005 Critical Mass

Credit: Antrim Caskey
Chief Smolka's actions on the videotape seem consistent with his reputation for having an explosive temper. For more on the Chief's standing among activists, many of whom consider him to be a sort of "Darth Vader" figure, see Aaron Naparstek's piece naming him one of the New York Press "50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers."

It is not clear why Chief Smolka has chosen to leave the police department that has been the focus of his adult life. Perhaps he just got a better offer. Or maybe the Chief's ascent to the highest levels of the police department has been compromised by his hands-on aggression on the street.