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107th officer files lawsuit against precinct

In the complaint, filed in Brooklyn federal court, Officer Ricardo Richards said the bathroom incident was "designed 'solely' to embarrass (him) and to further add to the hostile environment he endures everyday as he attempts to perform his police duties." Richards, an immigrant from Barbados, claims he has been treated hostilely ever since arriving in March 2004 at the 107th, which covers the Fresh Meadows area. According to the complaint, the commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Charles Talamo, unfairly disciplined Richards for leaving a prisoner unattended and reading a newspaper on the job."He's in charge of this whole building, but it seems he's spending an awful lot of time watching my client," Richards' attorney, Eric Sanders, said of Talamo.Then on Feb. 11, Richards was ordered to clean the bathrooms while wearing his uniform, Sanders said.. The patrolman complied, but called Sanders, who sent a letter of complaint to police headquarters. A union delegate eventually arrived at the station and told Richards to stop cleaning, saying it was not part of his collective bargaining agreement.But the problems he faced at the 107th Precinct were just the latest in a long line of harassing behavior that followed him through four precinct transfers, the suit said.Richards claims the poor treatment stemmed from an arrest he made in April 2000. Around 1 a.m. Richards, then at the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood, responded to a 911 call about a car accident at Myrtle Avenue and 97th Place in Glendale. According to the complaint, Cheryl Gaffney, an off-duty Brooklyn officer, had run a red light and hit two cars. Seeing that she was intoxicated, Richards called in his patrol supervisor, who arrested Gaffney. Gaffney was later suspended from the 83rd Precinct.Officers at the Brooklyn precinct allegedly later entered the 104th Precinct and cornered Richards in the locker room, saying "You better watch your back because you're not going to get any backup in the 83rd. Be careful, you may catch a bullet," according to the complaint.Other malicious acts ensued, Richards claimed, including colleagues stealing his equipment, mocking his Bajan accent and intentionally assigning him to lone midnight foot patrols through dangerous neighborhoods.In August 2001, Richards, then at the 113th Precinct in Jamaica, was suspended following a fight with other officers who arrested the off-duty Richards for weapon possession and soliciting prostitution, the suit said. The scuffle dissipated once Richards showed he was a police officer but not before one of the other officers broke his nose and slammed his body onto the hood of an unmarked patrol car, according to the complaint.Despite being found not guilty of prostitute solicitation in a department trial in August 2003, Richard claims the unfair allegations and disciplinary actions have all but ruined any chances of career advancement. A spokesman at police headquarters said no one in the Police Department would comment while a lawsuit was pending.Sanders, Richard's lawyer, said the treatment of his client was not only out of retribution for arresting Gaffney but discrimination as well."This is for the damages he endured as one of the only black officers in his precinct," Sanders said of the lawsuit, which is against the city, the Police Department and several high- and low-level police officials.Sanders said he expects to hear from the defendants after they have reviewed the complaint. Georgia Pestana, chief of Labor & Employment Law for the city's Corporation Council, said "we have not received the notice of claim on this case, but we will evaluate the legal papers thoroughly upon receipt." Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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