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Police Misconduct

‘Slap On the Wrist’: Cop Loses 15 Vacation Days, $500 For Harassing 311 Complainant

NYPD Officer John Madera must pay $500 and forfeit 15 days vacation for threatening a man who reported illegal parking outside his precinct.

Photo Montage: Streetsblog Photoshop Desk|

Police illegal parking is endemic. Cop abuse of 311 is, too.

An NYPD officer agreed to pay $500 and lose 15 vacation days after he admitted to posing as a 311 operator to threaten a member of the public who reported illegal parking outside his downtown Brooklyn precinct, the city's Conflicts of Interest Board said, confirming Streetsblog's reporting.

Officer John Madera of the 84th Precinct misused his position as a city official to access Justin Sherwood's confidential contact information and call him under false pretenses — and then wrongly telling him that his "chronic" illegal parking complaints were "an abuse of the 311 system" that "might get [him] barred" from using it entirely, COIB said in an Oct. 11 disposition made public on Monday.

Madera "sought to discourage a citizen from exercising his constitutional right to complaint about government action," the watchdog agency wrote.

Sherwood, whom COIB's document does not name, filed 901 complaints over nine months in 2021 concerning officers' illegally parked cars near station houses — including the 84th Precinct, where Madera has worked since January 2020.

The city's 311 office forwarded Sherwood's complaints to the precinct, and Madera called Sherwood by using confidential information to "advance a private interest" in violation of the City Charter, COIB determined.

Madera claimed to be a 311 operator named "Josh Hayden" during a Sept. 10, 2021 call when he threatened to cut Sherwood's access to the system if he didn't stop filing complaints about illegal parking.

City representatives do not follow up directly with members of the public who file 311 complaints, a spokesperson for the non-emergency service previously told Streetsblog.

Madera agreed to pay the $500 fine and forfeit the 15 vacation days. He also previously paid $500 toward a $25,000 the city paid Sherwood in a civil suit that cost the city more than $150,000 including legal expenses and fees.

The light punishment for the abuse of power and targeted retaliation was disappointing, but unsurprising, said Sherwood's attorney Gideon Oliver.

"These penalties are less than a slap on the wrist, and come too little, too late," Oliver told Streetsblog in a statement.

"The lack of meaningful consequences send the message that all it will cost other NYPD members who do the same kinds of things is a few hundred dollars and a few days’ vacation."

COIB's ruling marked the latest chapter in saga of NYPD retaliation and threats that began in 2021, when then-anonymous Sherwood told Streetsblog exposed the several phone calls suspected NYPD officers upset over his complaints about illegal parking outside their precincts.

Madera’s 311 impersonation was the third such call — after one from someone claiming to be a cop but refusing to identify himself and another from a “Det. Sturman” calling Sherwood a “dickhead.”

After Streetsblog's first story, Sherwood received a text message from another alleged member of the NYPD that said, “Keep fucking around.”

Sherwood suspected the text came from Det. Samantha Sturman or her relative, Officer Arthur Sturman. The court ordered Samantha Sturman to pay $500 in the civil case.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, the city's independent agency tasked with investigation police abuse, substantiated allegations against both Sturmans for “discourtesy" and "abuse of authority," and against Officer Tiagom Reis for "abuse of authority and discourtesy" for a similarly harassing call during which he failed to identify himself.

And in late 2022, the CCRB told Sherwood it had substantiated allegations against Madera for “discourtesy, abuse of authority, and making a false statement to the CCRB.”

NYPD closes thousands of service requests about driver misconduct such as illegal parking each year in under five minutes, a 2021 Streetsblog investigation found.

Neither Madera's lawyer nor NYPD responded to requests for comment.

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