A Black Army veteran is suing the City of New York after he claims he was falsely arrested and berated by a racist, pro-Trump cop while walking his dog in a Brooklyn park last year.
Najja Plowden, 35, said he was finishing up a midnight walk with his dog at Brower Park in Crown Heights on August 17 when two cops in an NYPD police van stopped and questioned him about being in the park after hours, according to the complaint filed in a Brooklyn court Friday, Jan. 13. Plowden said he didn’t notice any signage posted about the park’s closing hours but noted in his court documents that there was a white man playing fetch with his dog nearby, who the officers ignored.
The New York Daily News reported that when one of the officers asked the Brooklyn man for identification (which he had left at home), they ran his name through the system and found an active warrant from 2013 for illegal skateboarding. Plowden, a married father of two who served in Afghanistan, told one of the officers, Nicholas Loweth, that the warrant had been dismissed in Manhattan Criminal Court three months prior, according to the Daily News.
Still, the officer took him into custody.
“I explained that [the summons] was cleared up. I wasn’t even in the country at the time,” said Plowden, who was transported to the 77th Precinct and detained for seven hours. A judge later confirmed that the warrant had indeed been cleared.
In his lawsuit, Plowden alleged that while he was in custody, Loweth hurled a series of racist comments at him, including “Your culture is more problematic, more violent, more prone to crime,” and “You wouldn’t have been stopped and detained if you’d been a white guy in a park at night on the Upper East Side.”
The Army veteran, who has no criminal history, said he began to tear up in his cell as Loweth looked on and laughed. Plowden also works as an occupational therapist for the Department of Education but was declared “ineligible for assignments to schools” as a result of the arrest, Gothamist.com reported.
“I started to tear up because I’m a 35-year-old black man, a veteran, with no criminal record,” he told the Daily News. “I said, ‘Please, do not do this. Why are you doing this?'”
Court papers also indicated that Loweth allegedly told Plowden “Donald Trump was the best option for America because Trump would support the police and support their policing in minority neighborhoods, and would end the ‘abuse of resources’ such as food stamps and welfare by ‘ghetto’ residents.'” The Brooklyn man said the officer’s political lectures and praises for Trump continued for hours.
Joel Berger, Plowden’s attorney, told Gothamist.com that while Loweth’s racially charged tirade was concerning, his client’s arrest is what highlights a larger problem with the NYPD.
“This is just a classic example of broken windows policing gone haywire,” Berger said. “Skateboarding in a park, walking your dog in a park at night … I mean, they were doing this to a totally innocent guy with no criminal record whatsoever. An army veteran, employed, middle-class guy, this guy actually has a master’s degree. It would be bad enough for a police officer to make all those racist comments, but when you look at what this was all about to begin with, it’s really outrageous.”
Atlanta Black Star spoke with Plowden, who said the city and NYPD officers were formally served with court papers yesterday. He added that he and his wife are not seeking monetary compensation in light of the incident.
“For me, I aim to spark a dialogue,” he told ABS. “My No. 1 goal is that the officer gets moved out of the [77th] precinct. Because of the background of this officer and the things that he said and his history as a police officer, I would rather him not be in our neighborhood.”
Plowden revealed that in 2012, Loweth was accused of falsifying evidence in a case where a victim was beaten up. The case was eventually settled out of court for $25,000.
The Brooklyn man said he was less concerned with the officer’s Trump rhetoric, but moreso focused on the things Loweth said that made him believe the cop should find another line of work.
“To be honest, he’s unfit to be a police officer,” Plowden said.