SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady police officer involved in a controversial arrest last year that led to discipline had a separate disciplinary proceeding and also a counseling memo issued to him within the seven months before that.
Newly released Schenectady Police Department internal records show that Officer Brian Pommer, an eight-year veteran of the force, was given a counseling memo for discourtesy and using profanity following his response to a domestic call on Nov. 11, 2019.
Details of that incident on Congress Street in Mont Pleasant were released in response to Freedom of Information Law requests from the Daily Gazette and other news organizations. A state Supreme Court judge last month ruled that the records had to be released under a new state law.
The 30-page FOIL response also provided new details about Pommer’s response to a previously known disciplinary case regarding how he handled a social distancing complaint at Bumpy’s Polar Freeze last April. That led to his being suspended for three days.
It does not appear Pommer, who was hired in 2012, faced any internal disciplinary proceedings prior to November 2019.
Pommer first came to public attention last summer, at a time when police across the country were under heightened scrutiny following a series of civilian deaths at the hands of police, and amid new Black Lives Matter activism.
In the incident that brought him notoriety, Pommer was filmed by cellphone last July kneeling on the neck-head area of a Mont Pleasant man he apprehended and pinned to the ground after the man ran away while being questioned about a neighbor’s punctured tires.
The suspect was not seriously hurt, but the encounter echoed how George Floyd had been suffocated by a kneeling Minneapolis police officer last May, and it inflamed police-community tensions.
While the Schenectady County District Attorney’s office investigated and determined Pommer had broken no laws, he was suspended for six days for violating department policies about discourtesy and reviewing evidence before acting. The suspect was given a dismissal of charges on condition he stay out of trouble for six months.
It was also previously known that Pommer was suspended for three days for his neglect of duty during an April 17 call to Bumpy’s about enforcing COVID-related social distancing rules. Bumpy’s then-owner, David Elmendorf, a former county corrections officer with friends among police, was defiant of the rules, to the point that Schenectady County Public Health Services eventually went to court and shut the business down.
“You were sent to a local business to make advisements about social distancing and instead participated in a conversation about COVID being a hoax and mail-in voter fraud,” Assistant Police Chief Jack Falvo wrote in a memo to Pommer. “The purpose of this conversation was to advise on important guidelines. You portrayed yourself as apathetic to your assignment….”
The November 2019 incident that resulted in counseling started with a call about an “out of control” 16-year-old boy. Lt. Brian Whipple reviewed the incident and found that two of the allegations against Pommer lacked sufficient evidence, but he sustained one allegation. Pommer was given a counseling memo, which Whipple said is not a form of discipline.
“You had interactions with three members of a family who were having an active domestic incident: a juvenile and two adults who were highly agitated,” Whipple summarized. “During these interactions you became unprofessional, and you stated to the juvenile ‘your dad’s an (expletive) and whoever the (expletive) that lady is, I want to smack her in the mouth.’ Your actions did not help to de-escalate the incident and made the incident harder to resolve.”
“This conduct is unprofessional and reflects poorly on the Schenectady Police Department, the city of Schenectady and law enforcement as a professional,” Whipple wrote.
While the woman involved spoke insultingly to the two officers, Whipple noted that Pommer’s partner — whose name is blacked out — behaved professionally throughout the incident.
The counseling memo is dated April 15, just two days before the incident in which Pommer responded to Bumpy’s.
Release of the records follows a decision by state Supreme Court Justice Mark Powers in late December that dismissed the Schenectady Police Benevolent Association’s attempt to keep parts of the file sealed. The city previously released much of Pommer’s personnel file to comply with the repeal of 50-a, the state law that previously shielded such records from public disclosure.
The 50-a law was repealed by the state Legislature last summer as part of the state’s reaction to protests against police brutality and systemic racism, amid calls for police to be held more accountable for their actions.
Schenectady, like communities across the state that have law enforcement agencies, is conducting a reform review, due to be filed with the state by April 1. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week praised Schenectady’s reform plan for its citizen advisory panel which would evaluate candidates before they are hired and appointed to the police department.