Schenectady

Report: Schenectady police officer boasted about injuring detained woman

Internal investigation doesn't mention any disciplinary action against McCracken
This photo of the injury suffered by Nicola Cottone was included in the internal investigation report.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
This photo of the injury suffered by Nicola Cottone was included in the internal investigation report.

SCHENECTADY — City police Lt. Mark McCracken used excessive force against a handcuffed woman in 2016, causing a large head wound, the department’s professional standards unit has concluded.

McCracken took a photo of the injury he caused and showed it to others, including to a fellow lieutenant.

“This is what happens when someone hits one of my men,” McCracken told Lt. James Sanders, according to the internal investigation report.

The report was part of a new filing submitted Friday for a lawsuit brought by the woman last year.

Nicola Cottone seeks unspecified monetary damages according to the filing. She alleges various violations of her rights, as well as assault and battery.

The city of Schenectady has denied the allegations.

The filing names McCracken and Officer Andrew MacDonald as defendants. The officers involved had previously been named only as “John Does.” The filing also includes a photo of Cottone’s injury.

While the internal investigation report found McCracken’s use of force was excessive, and that the picture McCracken took was a violation of procedure, it does not specify what punishment McCracken received.

Cottone’s attorney, Kevin Luibrand, filed the case in September.

The report is in the form of a memo written by Lt. Edward Barbegelata to Police Chief Eric Clifford. It is dated Sept. 30, 2016, 17 days after the Sept. 13, 2016 incident. The filing also included statements by Sanders and MacDonald.

The  incident happened less than 30 minutes before Mayor Gary McCarthy named Eric Clifford as the new police chief in a ceremony in Proctors. McCracken had been up for the spot himself.

Barbegelata outlined his findings based on interviews and surveillance video of the incident.

Cottone was arrested based on burglary and larceny warrants issued for her outside of Schenectady. She was placed in the department’s “muster room,” seated on a bench, hands cuffed behind her back, by MacDonald, Barbegelata wrote.

She was also not secured to the bench. Barbegelata noted that is not uncommon for those who are scheduled to be transferred quickly, but Cottone was in custody on a felony charge — burglary — and was mentally impaired. Those circumstances required higher levels of security, Barbegelata wrote.

Those circumstances should be addressed by training, he wrote.

When Cottone stood up and began shouting, MacDonald and McCracken attempted to get her under control, Barbegelata wrote. MacDonald pressed his finger to Cottone’s chest to get her back down on the bench.

Barbegelata wrote that “may not be the best tactic,” and that she should have been secured, not simply sat back down. She should have been moved to a cell.

Cottone’s attorney has claimed officers charged her with harassment to cover up the incident. The charge was later dropped.

McCracken said the picture of Cottone on his phone was sent to him by someone, but he didn’t remember who. He said he showed it to Assistant Police Chief Jack Falvo, MacDonald and Sanders. He also showed it “to this reporting officer but made no comment,” Barbegelata wrote.

Sanders wrote in his own statement that McCracken showed him the photo on the day of the incident and made the comment, “This  is what happens when someone hits one of my men.”

In the incident’s wake, the city’s attorney, Apri Laws, filed a formal answer to the allegations, arguing that police detained Cottone based on an assault complaint “and multiple arrest warrants.”

Laws also wrote that while officers “were attempting to relocate [Cottone] due to [her] hostile outbursts, noncompliance with lawful directives,” her resistance caused her forehead to strike a wooden bench.

Laws, however, denied officers used excessive or unnecessary force.

It was unclear how the internal affairs report affected the city’s response.

Police Chief Eric Clifford and other city officials have refused to comment on the case.

More recently, McCracken was charged in January with misdemeanor criminal contempt in an incident involving his estranged wife. He was suspended with pay pending an internal investigation.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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