2005-08-12 / Community

Bill Swensen Responds To Police Accusations And Arrest

Bill Swensen still doesn’t know exactly what hit him on the night of the National Night Out Against Crime celebration on Beach 116 Street.

Swensen, who says that he and his family had been traveling extensively to his daughter’s basketball tournaments and did not even know of the celebration, decided to take a quick shopping trip to Beach 116 Street to pick up a couple of necessary items.

He wound up several minutes later in handcuffs and in the back of a police car being transported to the 100 Precinct under arrest on a number of vehicle-related crimes and charged with hitting an Auxiliary Police Officer.

How did Swensen go from local coach and all around good guy to evil automobile driver?

Swensen reacting to the story in last week’s Wave, came to the paper’s office to tell his story.

Swensen says that on August 2 he was heading west on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, waiting to make a left turn onto 116 Street, heading towards the beach.

He told The Wave that he had come to a complete stop in the center of the intersection. Facing him, he says, was an SUV waiting to make a left turn heading towards the Bay.

“The lights of the vehicle were in my eyes, and they restricted my vision,” he says. “As I began to make a left turn I could see that the crosswalk was clear. After moving several feet I saw that there was a police barricade behind the crosswalk with an officer standing in front of it.”

Swensen argues that when he saw the officer, he stopped immediately and got out of his car.

“As I got out of my car the officer was still standing in the same place,” he says. “After seeing her standing there my first thought was, ‘Thank God I didn’t hit her.’”

The Auxiliary Police Officer, Cathalina Diperro, however, says that Swensen did hit her.

She was transported to Peninsula Hospital Center with minor injuries to her leg, she says.

“The next thing I know an NYPD policewoman, PO Morgan came running towards the scene, ranting and raving,” Swensen continues. “She was screaming, ‘This man is crazy.’ She then asked the auxiliary officer, in a suggestive manner, ‘Did he hit you?’ The auxiliary officer’s response was, ‘I think he may have hit me in the leg.’ Other officers and a crowd began to gather. Officer Morgan then yelled out for the crowd to hear that this man is drunk, I want him tested right now. It should be noted that I was not drinking and I offered to be tested right at the scene. They never tested me. Officer Morgan then pushed me up against my car and handcuffed me. She did this without requesting my I.D., without asking my name, in fact without asking me a single question. The handcuffs were secured on me in a way that was obviously meant to cause me some pain. I have pictures of the bruises created by the handcuffs.”

Swensen said that without any explanation she then had him placed in a police car and he was taken to the 100 Precinct, where, he says, he sat in a cell for about an hour and a half.

“At no time, either when I was placed in handcuffs, or when I was taken to the precinct, did any officer read me my rights or tell me anything about what was going on,” he says.

Swensen says he recently secured a copy of the police accident report. He was surprised to find that Officer Morgan has listed herself as a witness to the accident.

“My question is; if Officer Morgan witnessed me hitting her, then why did she have to ask her at the scene if she was hit?” he asks.

The local coach thinks that he was wronged by the police officers at the scene, who, he says, “overreacted to the minor event.” “The Wave article in effect is evidence of the defamatory result of Officer Morgan’s behavior,” he adds. “I am a law-abiding citizen who spends a great deal of his time doing community service. I have been running the sports program in my parish for seven years, even though my child left the program several years ago. I have worked hard to be helpful to my community. It was upsetting enough to be involved in this incident, but to then be subjected to Officer Morgan’s verbal abuse and slanderous remarks made in a public forum, without any ‘reasonable suspicion,’ let alone ‘probable cause’ to believe that I had committed a crime is unacceptable.

“A person who makes an illegal or unpermitted turn may reasonably expect to be stopped, asked for his license, and possibly given a ticket. No one should have to accept a hysterical reaction to an unprofessional law enforcement official that could have had the effect of causing a ‘mob mentality’ reaction. We as taxpayers have a right to expect professional conduct and fair treatment from those who take an oath to ‘protect and serve.’ If there is an accident, we expect them to investigate in a respectful fashion. We have a right to not be accused of a crime without some basis for believing that a crime has been committed.

“To say that the officer was overzealous would be giving her too much credit. Her conduct and the treatment of me were disgraceful. I have filed a complaint against Officer Morgan for false arrest, the use of excessive force, conduct unbecoming of a police officer (shouting false and defamatory statements about me in the presence of people who know me and also know my family), and for her instigation of the filing of a false report claiming the striking of an auxiliary officer.

“Making this left turn, when my view had been compromised by the lights of an oncoming vehicle, is not a FELONY…yet I was treated as a felon. Officer Morgan’s actions caused defamatory pictures to be published in a public newspaper, subjecting me and my family to embarrassment and humiliation. Both on that night, and in the aftermath.”

Swensen says that, after being taken to the precinct in handcuffs, he was released with a number of summonses, including Failure to comply with police officer, Failure to yield to a pedestrian, Reckless driving, and Unlicensed driver (he didn’t have his license in his possession, although he says that his wife brought it to the precinct and the police had seen it before the citation was written). His court date has been set for September 14, and he plans to plead not guilty to all of the summonses.

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