SCHENECTADY — The city police officer involved in a controversial arrest with a suspect in July was notified in May that he was suspended for three days without pay for making inappropriate remarks while responding to an unrelated call at a business that later became the center of racial tensions in the city.
Details of the suspension of Officer Brian Pommer and his response at Bumpy’s Polar Freeze on April 6 to enforce social distancing requirements were made public by the city Wednesday in disciplinary records.
Documents reveal Pommer was dispatched to the location at 5:17 p.m. that day by a sergeant to warn people not to congregate at picnic tables.
Yet the owner, according to files, “actually advised you several times that he would allow people to eat at the picnic tables.”
While the exact narrative is unclear, and some elements of the file have been redacted, Pommer was accused of violating the department’s standard of conduct.
He later acknowledged making “unprofessional and inappropriate remarks” concerning his authority to enforce regulations and close non-essential businesses.
Pommer met with union representatives and police brass for an “informal” conversation on May 4 to discuss what documents describe as “unsatisfactory work performance and inefficiency in carrying out his work assignment” when he responded to the ice cream parlor.
No formal disciplinary charges were filed and Pommer agreed to a three-day suspension without pay scheduled for July 22 to 24 — two weeks after he pursued Yugeshwar Gaindarpersaud and pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his head and neck area on July 6.
Pommer, a seven-year veteran of the department, was also stripped from his entry team position on the department’s SWAT team as a result of disciplinary action.
The revelations mark a convergence of events that saw Black Lives Matter demonstrations unfold all summer in the city.
Beginning in late June, protesters held several demonstrations outside Bumpy’s Polar Freeze after the owner was accused of making racist comments on social media.
Demonstrators later convinced employees to walk out, collecting cash donations from the crowd to pay them for the day.
The owner, David Elmendorf, was later arrested after allegedly pointing a pellet gun at demonstrators on June 30.
Amid the controversy, Elmendorf was openly defying a shutdown order by the county Health Department after he refused to fix a faulty kitchen appliance.
A county Health Department investigation concluded Bumpy’s hadn’t complied with state orders intended to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including not marking six-foot waiting distances for customer lines, not spacing tables six-feet apart, not requiring employees to wear masks, and being open for on-premises consumption before June 4 when restaurants were allowed to serve take-out only.
Pommer was assigned to desk duty after the July 6 incident, which was sparked after a neighbor accused Gaindarpersaud of slashing his tires.
Gaindarpersaud fled after being questioned by Pommer, who knelt on his head and neck area and punched him several times in the torso before he was handcuffed.
The release of the partial disciplinary records marks a reversal by the city, which said it was prohibited from releasing files after the Schenectady PBA filed a lawsuit last month to block the release of Pommer’s disciplinary record. The union contended unsubstantiated claims should be stripped out.
State Supreme Court Justice Mark Powers extended an injunction until at least Oct. 13, when lawyers for the city and PBA were scheduled to meet via teleconference.
The Daily Gazette, Albany Times Union and Albany Proper, an online website, each submitted Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL) requests for Pommer’s disciplinary and personnel records.
The city previously denied the Daily Gazette’s request, citing ongoing litigation.
City Corporation Counsel Andrew Koldin on Wednesday said Powers’ order allowed the city to release personnel records with “proper redactions to the extent that the records resulted in an actual finding of misconduct along with the underlying evidence supporting those specifications and any settlement involving those specifications.”
“After further discussion with Jack Calareso, attorney for the PBA, the city, in compliance with Judge Powers’ order, released the records that are responsive to the FOIL request and are not in dispute,” Koldin said. “There are still records that are in dispute, and, therefore, the legal proceeding is still ongoing.”
Koldin did not answer whether the report marked the entirety of Pommer’s disciplinary and personnel file.
Following nationwide reckoning on police brutality, the state Legislature repealed law 50-a in June, a statute used by police departments to block the release of disciplinary and personnel records.
Unions representing police departments in several cities have filed similar lawsuits seeking to block the release of unsubstantiated allegations, including New York City and Buffalo, where the police and fire unions’ attempt to do so through a lawsuit was denied Tuesday after state Supreme Court Justice Frank Sedita III ruled the records should be released, according to WGRZ.