A New York City police sergeant who claims he faced retaliation for seeking treatment for his 9/11-related health issues has since been suspended.
Sgt. Cyress Smith spoke with the New York Post about how he was reportedly forced out after leaving work to pick up his daughter from the hospital earlier this month.
“I am being forced off the job,” Smith told the outlet. I believe “what made them come after me was the lawsuit and the fact [that] an article appeared in the paper. You know what? They crossed the line with my daughter.”
The-52-year old law enforcement officer says he suffers from a chronic cough, asthma, and sleep apnea, conditions he developed after sifting through debris at the Fresh Kills Landfill following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. In a lawsuit filed in June, Smith accused the NYPD of exiling him to the department’s outcast assignment, the VIPER Unit, for three years after attending treatment for his ailments.
According to the Post, the unit is essentially a holding area for disciplinary cases where officers, who are typically under investigation, are assigned to watch endless loops of security video from local housing projects.
Smith had previously worked with the NYPD’s Risk Management Bureau, teaching officers to root out corruption, before being transferred to mail duty, due to his ailments. He would be bounced around twice more before landing at the VIPER Unit.
In an earlier complaint, Smith also noted that his white colleagues were receiving glowing evaluations while he was essentially being outcasted.
“It’s difficult to appreciate the level to which they’ve gone to retaliate against him,” his attorney, Chukwuemeka Nwokoro, told the New York Daily News in November 2017. “They’re basically treating him like a rookie cop.”
Smith was an acting supervisor of VIPER when he began bumping heads with his own supervisor lieutenant. Smith claims there’s a “history of undermining” in the unit and so when he started cracking down on subpar officers, he received some push back.
Their friction reached a fever pitch on Dec. 3 when Smith, a single father, says he informed his supervisor that his daughter, 17, was being discharged from the hospital and that he needed to retrieve her. The lieutenant refused to let him go, however, so Smith went above him and got permission from a captain in the investigations unit.
The seasoned officer would later learn he was suspended for disobeying a lawful order.
“I gave them the hospital discharge letter … they ignored all that,” he told the Post in a recent interview. “And the lieutenant said, ‘Which one matters more to you your job or your daughter?’ I couldn’t believe the things they were saying.”
Smith said he took his concerns to the Sergeants Benevolent Association police union, which ultimately upheld the department’s decision.
“They stand by and let it happen,” he added.
Now, the suspended sergeant said he’s worried about being stripped of the health benefits his teen daughter relies on.
Atlanta Black Star reached out to the NYPD for comment and is awaiting a response.