Syracuse, NY — Brad Hulett (39) is arguably one of the unluckiest men who’s ever lived. When he was 12, he was hit by two trains, and permanently disabled, and a portion of his brain was removed. At 27, he was run over by a truck.
Both accidents left him permanently disabled. The train accident caused his left side to be practically useless. His brain surgery caused his skull to appear dented when half of his brain was removed. The man vs. truck incident resulted in constant back pain, aggravated most by standing.
But it wasn’t until he had a run-in with Syracuse police officers that his luck, once again, took a turn for the worse. Officers were called to the bus where he was a rider on May 3, 2013.
Hulett refused to sit down, preferring to stand while holding the pole, reportedly because sitting hurt his back. When Syracuse’s finest arrived, instead of noticing he is obviously disabled, and employing de-escalation techniques, the officers went straight to their tasers.
The disabled man was tased and dragged out of the bus. As a result of the officers’ actions, he broke his hip in the process and had to have surgery, which left a seven-inch scar. The disabled man sued the officers, the police department, and the ambulatory services after charges against him were dismissed.
Instead of being transported to the hospital to receive proper medical care for his injuries, the frail handicapped man, with obvious special needs was taken to jail.
However, it’s what the judge in his case has noticed which is making news today. U.S. District Judge David Hurd uncovered a pattern of misconduct, cover-up, abuse, and misstatements which he says is reason enough for Hulett’s case to go forward.
Judge Hurd pointed to Syracuse PD’s lackadaisical approach to use of force incidents as a cause for concern. As The Free Thought Project has advocated, the city has an effective Citizens Review Board (CRB) which independently determines whether or not an officer should be disciplined when he or she is accused of an excessive use of force.
But Chief Frank Fowler only disciplined 3 of 18 officers in 2013 whom the CRB recommended be disciplined for their actions. Citing the Chief’s own words, Hurd stated officers are rarely if ever disciplined for an improper use of a taser.
Judge Hurd also noticed the use of force incident report was not filed until newspapers covered the story about police using a taser on a disabled man. He also noted an internal investigation was not launched until reporters began to ask questions about the incident involving Hubert.
Syracuse.com wrote Hulett’s lawyers have uncovered an apparent cover-up:
Hulett’s lawsuit claims not only that police used excessive force, but that they tried to cover it up by falsifying reports and destroying other videos that Centro surveillance cameras captured outside the bus.
Video filmed by Syracuse Metro, which could have served as evidence in the case against the officers, was destroyed. Hulett’s lawyers also claim he was not told he was under arrest prior to being tased and drug out of the bus. Audio from the bus surveillance camera seems to indicate the officers never told the man he was under arrest before they deployed their tasers.
Judge Hurd is allowing the case to proceed. “A jury could conclude that, as a result of SPD leadership’s well-known permissive attitude toward compelled compliance with authority…, (the officers) knew they would not be critically investigated, much less disciplined, for using force on citizens,” Hurd wrote, before adding, “Consequently, these subordinate officers felt empowered to use force with relative impunity and that, as a result, used excessive force on (Hulett).”
Rick Guy, Hulett’s lawyer had harsh words for the officers and the police department. “The video evidence in my client’s case shows a brutal and unnecessary abuse of power against one of the least of us,” he said. The lawyer added, “The integrity of the police department and the safety of the community depend on unbiased and honest investigation of uses of force and the appropriate disciplining of abusive officers.”