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No Discipline for NYPD Officers Who Deface License Plates in Apparent Attempt to Evade Tickets

by Douglas Ankney

Gersh Kuntzman, editor of Streetsblog, spent the first quarter of 2023 documenting New York Police Department (“NYPD”) officers who defaced their license plates, making the plates unreadable to the city’s speed, red-light, and bus-lane violation cameras. The results of the investigations into his complaints reveal none of the offending officers were disciplined.

Sergeant Ronald Paulin earned more than $228,000 in 2022. Kuntzman photographed Paulin’s new Tesla that had no front license plate or registration. But the investigator who interviewed Paulin stated Paulin no longer owned the vehicle. However, the investigator indicated that the vehicle Paulin no longer owned was a 2019 Nissan Altima. There was no follow-up investigation concerning the new Tesla displaying Paulin’s license plate in the rear but no front plate.

Detective Christopher McGuinness – who was paid $177,773 last year – had a license plate with the “D” and “V” scratched off, rendering the plate illegible. Lt. Juan Solla reported that he informed McGuinness that the plate had some peeled paint, and should it deteriorate further, it would need to be replaced. 

Lieutenant Craig Baco, who was paid $179,000 in 2022, scraped off the last four digits of his front plate. According to the investigator assigned to the case “[Baco] contacted DMV in my presence and he ordered a replacement plate. It will take approximately four to six weeks for the new plates to arrive. The subject was unaware of the damage to his front plate until he was inforemed [sic].”

Detective Louis Dambrosio’s front and back plates were severely defaced. Even though Dambrosio was paid $186,695 last year, Kuntzman repainted all the digits on both plates at no cost. NYPD Inspector Brittany McCarthy decided that “the paint chipping on the license plate is not enough to determine this plate to be unrecognizable.... [Dambrosio] was advised to contact the DMV for a new license plate.”

Officer Evelyn Rodriguez’s vehicle was videotaped displaying Massachusetts plates. New York law prohibits cops from living outside the state. But Rodriguez allegedly retired in 2016 and no longer works for the city. However, the investigation failed to answer the question of why Rodriguez still had an NYPD placard displayed in her car.

NYPD Investigator Novaidul Neon investigated the complaint regarding Officer Michael Cronin’s defaced plates. Neon decided Cronin could not possibly be accused of defacing his plate because “his intention was not to get away from tickets.” (Cronin had racked up 15 speeding and five red-light tickets.)

Officer Clinton Philbert covered his rear plate with a spare tire. Neon reported that Philbert took his vehicle to a mechanic, and the plate is now visible. However, Neon concluded that Philbert had wrongly covered his plate, and the NYPD would take action by sending Philbert a letter (apparently a chiding one?).

One can only wonder whether members of the public who are not employed with the NYPD are afford similar deference when accused of similar violations.  




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