NYPD detective apologizes for Uber tirade caught on video

Story highlights

  • Detective: "I sincerely apologize" for berating Uber driver
  • NYPD investigating encounter that was caught on tape by passenger
  • Detective placed on modified assignment

New York (CNN)A New York Police Department detective apologized Friday for an angry exchange with an Uber driver that was caught on video and landed him on modified assignment.

"I apologize. I sincerely apologize," Patrick Cherry told WNBC's Jonathan Dienst.
Cherry, an NYPD detective assigned to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force with top-secret security clearance, faces suspension, reassignment or loss of his clearance after the video of the altercation went viral.
"I was just angry, at that moment, for that exchange." Cherry said. "If the conversation initially went differently, we probably would have shook hands at the end of that encounter."
The altercation began Monday when the Uber driver gestured to a detective in an unmarked car to use his blinker after he was allegedly attempting to park without using it, according to Sanjay Seth, a passenger in the car who uploaded the video to YouTube.
The video picks up seconds after the detective began yelling at the driver and mocking his accent, and also shows the unmarked car with lights flashing pulled over behind the Uber car.
In the video, the detective tells the driver he has committed "three traffic and law violations" and then becomes irate and uses expletives toward the comparably calm driver.
A visibly upset Police Commissioner William Bratton on Wednesday said the detective was placed on modified assignment pending an investigation.
"No good cop can watch that without a wince," he told reporters. "As all good cops know ... the officer made their jobs a little bit harder. That kind of anger like that is unacceptable in any encounter; discourtesy like that and language like that is unacceptable. That officer's behavior reflected poorly on everyone who wears our uniform."
Cherry also apologized to the police commissioner, saying "he's doing a lot of good work to strengthen community relations in the city and I set that back. I would work, personally work to fix that."
"You can't judge three minutes of a tape involving me and me alone as indication that that's the kind of practice of the New York City Police Department," he added.
Bratton, who said the detective was on duty at the time, issued an apology to the driver and passengers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters at an unrelated news conference that he had not seen the video.
"There's just no place for any public servant to use discriminatory or negative language," he said. "Obviously, our police play a particularly sensitive role and need to show respect for all people."
In a statement, Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, called the officer "a person of good character and an excellent detective" who "should not be judged by one isolated incident."
"I am not trying to minimize the significance of what occurred," Palladino said. "I am simply pointing out that cops are just like everyone else. They have families, friends and other things going on in their lives, too, that may affect their behavior at times. There is no disputing that we are held to a higher standard, that is why this incident is so newsworthy."
In the video, after the detective steps back to his car, the Uber driver, who moved to America less than two years ago, turns to the passenger and thanks him for recording the video.
"That's crazy. That's really inappropriate," the passenger tells the driver. "Listen, it's not your fault. He shouldn't be slamming your car door, throwing things around. He doesn't have a right to open your door."
When the detective comes back, he is irate and doesn't allow the driver to speak.
"I don't care what you have to say, people are allowed to park their cars on the side of the street without your interference," the detective tells the driver. "I don't know where you're coming from, where you think it's appropriate in doing that. That's the way it works."
"I've got news for you," the detective says, "the only reason you're not in handcuffs and going to jail and getting summons in the precinct is because I have things to do. That's the only reason that's not happening. Because this isn't important enough for me. You're not important enough. Don't ever do that again."
The NYPD said the Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating the incident.
"The behavior in the video is wrong and unacceptable and we appreciate the NYPD investigating the incident. We are in touch with our driver-partner who was subjected to this terrible experience and will continue to provide any support he needs," Uber said Tuesday.
Seth met Wednesday with an investigator from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, according to board spokeswoman Linda Sachs.
The investigator is attempting to interview the driver as well as the police officer.
The findings will be presented to the board, which will make an official determination on whether misconduct was committed, Sachs said. The board will either refer the decision to the NYPD with a disciplinary recommendation, or decide to bring up the officer on administrative charges, with the decision presented to the police commissioner.