NEW YORK - An NYPD sergeant was charged Thursday with allegedly assaulting two handcuffed men after they lashed out at police — one who spat at officers, the other using anti-Asian racial slurs — in separate incidents in the last two years.
Sgt. Phillip Wong, 37, a supervisor in the bureau that patrols the city’s transit system, is facing charges of assault and attempted assault in connection to the arrests in 2019 and 2020. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to court documents, in 2019, Wong was caught on body-worn and security cameras punching a 48-year-old man in the face in a Harlem holding cell in October 2019 after the man kicked the cell door and spat at officers, prosecutors said. The man required stitches for a cut above his right eye, prosecutors said.
In the second incident in 2020, a 35-year-old suspect who had been arrested for punching another man on the train yelled obscenities and anti-Asian slurs at Wong, then kicked him in the leg. Wong and another office brought the man to the ground and Wong knelt on the man's back as he lay on his stomach. The man continued to taunt Wong, before shouting "I can't breathe!"
Wong allegedly responded, "I don't give a [expletive] if you can breathe or not!" and punched the man in the side of the face, before placing both of his knees on the man's back and bouncing multiple times.
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The NYPD said it has suspended Wong without pay. He has been with the department for more than 15 years. He is due back in court on Oct. 18.
"When NYPD officers head into the field each day to face unknown and potentially life-threatening situations, they do one of the most difficult jobs in the world," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in a statement. "But having sworn an oath to protect and serve their communities, those difficult jobs need to be carried out with the utmost integrity and professionalism, especially by officers in leadership. As alleged, this Sergeant grossly violated his training – and the law – during the arrests of these two individuals, whose conduct did not justify these violent responses."
A message seeking comment was left with the union representing NYPD sergeants.
"The city's created this atmosphere where people can say anything to police officers. They use racial and ethnic slurs against police officers, they denigrate their appearance, they denigrate their sexuality, and this happens on a daily basis," said Wong's lawyer, Andrew Quinn. "Our position and our feeling is that this is much more indicative of the lack of respect for police officers citywide and people have this belief that they're free to call a cop whatever they want to call a cop without consequence."
"A cop can't step out of a car anymore in this city without somebody shouting either an ethnic or a racial slur, or just an insulting comment at the officer. This is sort of the accepted standard in this city," Quinn said.
With the Associated Press.