By Adam Kredo/JNS.org
A former New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer is suing the force for $150 million after facing what he claims was years of vicious anti-Semitic discrimination and abuse at the hands of his fellow officers, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by JNS.org.
Former NYPD officer David Attali said he was subjected to daily anti-Semitic harassment and ridicule by his colleagues, who constantly referred to him as “Jew,” “dirty Jew,” and “f***ing Jew,” according to the legal complaint.
Attali, a 31-year-old New York City resident who holds dual American and Israeli citizenship, said he endured the abuse for years before filing a complaint and resigning from the force just six years into his career.
The 26-page legal complaint viewed by JNS.org paints an oftentimes disturbing portrait of Attali’s time working as an officer in the department’s World Trade Center (WTC) Command in downtown New York City.
Attali said he was subjected to daily anti-Semitic tirades that were not only tolerated by those on the force but condoned by top leaders at WTC Command.
“It started as ‘Jew’ and then its ‘you f***ing Jew’ and Hitler and the concentration camps,” Attali told JNS.org during a telephone interview that took place in the presence of his lawyer, Rocco Avallone of Avallone & Bellistri.
“They would throw change in my direction and say, ‘Can you resist it, Jew? Watch him go after it,’” Attali said, also recalling the “non-stop talk about concentration camps.”
Attali’s lawsuit targets the city of New York, as well as five WTC Command police officers, a deputy inspector, two sergeants, and a lieutenant, according to the complaint.
In addition to enduring near-constant verbal abuse, Attali said his workspace was repeatedly vandalized. Eventually, he said, it became too much for him to handle. He quit the NYPD in August 2014.
“Three years is a long time,” he said. “Imagine for three years you’re not called by your name. It’s just ‘f’in Jew,’ ‘dirty Jew,’ every type of curse possible with ‘Jew’ after it. For three years. Nonstop.”
Last May, Attali filed an internal complaint with the NYPD, though it is unclear whether it resulted in any action. A spokesman for the New York City Law Department declined to comment on the proceedings, telling JNS.org that “the matter is under review.”
In July 2014, Attali went further, filing a discrimination charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which handles claims of workplace bias based on race and religion.
By November, the EEOC is said to have issued to Attali a “right to sue” letter informing him that a case could be pursued in federal court, according to the legal documents.
An EEOC spokesman declined to comment on the case, saying that it is “strictly prohibited by law from confirming or denying the existence of discrimination charge filings.”
In most situations, records of this nature are kept private, according to the EEOC.
Attali said he first observed anti-Semitism among some of his colleagues soon after joining the force in 2008 and being assigned to the NYPD’s 67th Precinct.
“Almost immediately upon taking to the streets of New York City as a rookie patrol officer,” Attali was faced with “discriminatory animus harbored toward the Jewish faith, race, and national origin by some of his fellow officers and supervisors,” according to the legal complaint.
During one 2009 encounter at the 67th Precinct, one of Attali’s co-workers requested that he call his cell phone. When Attali dialed the officer’s phone, “the ringtone was the sound of Adolf Hitler giving a speech,” the complaint alleges.
Incidents like this would occur routinely over the years, Attali said, culminating with the constant verbal harassment that would later take place during his time at the WTC Command.
In 2010, for instance, Attali was on patrol with a fellow officer in a predominately Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, according the complaint. As the two drove past a cluster of Jewish children walking down the sidewalk, the officer allegedly remarked, “I bet you those Christ-killers have horns under those yarmulkes.”
The direct assaults began in 2011, once Attali started work at the WTC Command, where fellow officers were well aware that he would leave the job early on Friday afternoons to observe the Jewish Sabbath.
“It started off literally the first day I was there, until the day I left,” Attali said.
A core group of about nine officers and superiors are said to have led the abuse, according to court documents.
These officers “constantly referred” to Attali with “derogatory, anti-Semitic names such as ‘dirty Jew,’ ‘dirty f***ing Jew,’ or ‘the Jew’ all in the presence of NYPD supervisors who did nothing to deter this unlawful discrimination,” the suit alleges.
A spokesman for New York’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) said that it is representing the accused officers and is “not commenting on the case.”
When Attali arrived at work, he often found his locker covered in swastikas, the words “dirty Jew,” pictures of ham or bacon (which are prohibited under Jewish dietary laws), and even newspaper clippings that read, “Hail Hitler.”
Officers also invoked Hitler’s concentration camps, which murdered millions of Jews during World War II, during conversations with Attali, according to the complaint, which attempts to demonstrate that the comments went well beyond good-natured ribbing.
One WTC Command officer is alleged in January 2014 to have thrown a book of matches at Attali and then stated, “I hear you Jews go up quickly, like in the camps.”
Other officers “would pass gas” and tell Attali, “That was the same gas Hitler used to kill your people,” the complaint alleges.
The harassment is even said to have taken place over text message.
During one February 2014 exchange, an officer is said to have texted Attali: “F*** you Jew.”
Attali responded, “I’m on meal what u need?”
“Just wanted to say f*** you,” the officer allegedly replied.
Also that February, the same WTC Command officer is alleged to have tossed pennies and nickels at Attali and remarked, “Can you resist Jew? I hear you Jews can smell money.”
Last April, this time in the presence of the WTC Command superiors, that same officer allegedly told Attali, “What a great job Hitler did in World War II.”
Just a month later, Attali showed up to work with a new haircut, the complaint states.
“You have that concentration camp ‘do,’” one of Attali’s colleagues allegedly commented, also in front of superior officers.
The officer continued, “I don’t want Jews… Any day could be their last. Highly flammable.”
Other WTC Command members named in the complaint also are said to have joined in with the anti-Semitic provocations.
While in the WTC Command locker room in May, for instance, an officer turned to Attali and allegedly stated, “Jew. You can smell my change.”
This prompted a second officer to chime in, “Looks like an 80-year-old Jew walking around the f***ing JCC (Jewish Community Center) naked.”
“I want to push you into an oven and f***ing burn,” added the first officer mentioned. “I want to f***ing tattoo a number on you. When they gave me the (inaudible) the other day and you have that number in there, I think this is Attali’s family crest. Ha Ha Ha.”
Pages upon pages of other examples are contained in the full legal documents viewed by JNS.org.
Attali said that although he complained to his bosses about this treatment, no action was taken. He eventually requested a transfer, but that was denied, according to filings.
“After I made the complaint, everyone knew,” Attali said during the interview, explaining that the abuse got event worse after he took action. “It got very bad, and at a certain point I couldn’t deal with it.”
Since filing his lawsuit, Attali has not shied away from opening up about his experience in interviews.
“This situation highlights the problems of racism in the NYPD and the need for some type of oversight, which I shudder at,” Pesach Kirschner, a Jewish activist and radio show host who recently interviewed Attali, said. “No money in the world will make up for what has happened to David.”
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