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Armed with posters, banners and a bullhorn, supporters of Police Detective Rudy Prashad began assembling at 10 a.m. just blocks from the 102nd Precinct where Prashad worked for seven years. By noon, their ranks had swelled to more than 130.
"Only through him does the community have access (to the Police Department) and now he's not here," said Man Bedesi, president of the Richmond Hills Community Association.
Bedesi, who helped organize the event, said that during his seven years at the precinct, Prashad, a Guyanese Hindu, had found a way to bridge the gap between the mostly Indian and Pakistani community and the Police Department.
Prashad has been on a modified desk assignment since February, when he was transferred to a housing complex in Brooklyn. Police investigators from the Internal Affairs Bureau continue to look into allegations against Prashad, which include taking kickbacks from local merchants, distributing parking passes and fast-tracking lost passport claims for residents after a fire in 2002.
It is unclear where the allegations came from, but Bedesi speculated that they may have originated with one or two community members jealous of Prashad's popularity.
"Whenever a person is popular and gets the support of the community, there's always someone who wants to bring him down," Bedesi said.
The Police Department did not comment on the case.
"Make a charge if there is one," said community member Rohini Thakoor over chants of "Bring Rudy back" and "We want Rudy."
Bedesi said the allegations are ridiculous. "He never took money from the community," Bedesi said. "So far they haven't found anybody who would have even said (Prashad) took a can of soda."
Harbam Dhillon, a Sikh community leader, also said the charges against Prashad are baseless. Dhillon said investigators have pressured some community members to offer evidence against Prashad.
"This is a wall," Dhillon said investigators told him. "Which side do you want to stay on?
You stay on Rudy's side, you'll have big problems."
"This is the first step in sending a message to the mayor and the police commissioner," said Darmin Bachu, part of Prashad's pro-bono legal defense team. "If you've got something, use it, but don't punish the people by cutting off their access to the precinct."
Bachu said Prashad "is depressed but he's taking solace in the support that he's received."
Prashad's plight has garnered broad support from many corners of the Richmond Hill Indian and Pakistani community.
"Muslim, Christian, Hindu - we are together here," said Imam Ashrafuzzaman Khan, president of the Masjid Al-Hera, a mosque.
Bachu said Prashad could not comment publicly on the investigation because it was ongoing.
Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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