Administrative Leave (Pt. 5)
[Author’s Note: This story is part of a series documenting punitive actions taken against me by Rutgers University & various law enforcement agencies beginning November 9, 2016 — the day after Trump’s election. Start with Part 1.]
I woke up Thursday 11/17/16 a little groggy but well-rested. I hadn’t slept that hard in years, and I needed it. I took my time that morning having breakfast and coffee, gearing up for the day ahead.
First on the agenda: the belly of the beast, NYPD 94th precinct. Try to get the report on their action from two days earlier. I would’ve rather pulled off and then eaten my own toenails than go in to the precinct, but I needed that report.
If I was nervous about 3 officers in my too-small kitchen, multiply that by a million. Just to get to the door of the precinct, I had to wade through at least 1o officers flanking a set of stairs smoking cigarettes. Surly, judgmental looks everywhere in hopes that you’d just turn around and get the hell out of there, I guess.
I didn’t pause. Walked right up the stairs, looked down at the sidewalk, and pulled open the heavy, creaky door. Police departments are not actually like they’re represented on Law & Order. There are way more cops in uniform milling about and way less space. The entryway was about 5 by 5 feet, before a dividing gate with a receptionist’s desk. There were at least 20 officers in the full room (which was only about 4 times as big as the entryway), not counting the smokers outside.
Luckily, I spotted Good Cop in the mix and walked up to say hello. “How did things go the other night?” he asked.
Fine. I wasn’t in the mood for small talk. Hey, I’m trying to get a report from Tuesday. Is there a way to get a copy of the paperwork you filed?
“We didn’t actually file a report. We only do that when an arrest takes place. You should have everything on the discharge papers from Bellevue.”
Well color me surprised. OK. I explained to him that I did receive discharge papers but they don’t have any information on them except my name, date and time of arrival and discharge (so much for that “Bellevue is the most professional, you definitely want to choose Bellevue” again). There has to be some kind of paperwork you filled out, right? I need a copy of something just for my own records.
“For a psych transport like that we fill out an Aided Card, but Bellevue should’ve given you more thorough paperwork. Let me see if there’s a way to get a copy of the Aided Card. I’ll ask the Sergeant.”
Oh, great. Serge was there too. A veritable reunion. Bad Cop couldn’t make it. It wasn’t until seeing “Aided Card” written out that I realized the meaning behind the phrase. The NYPD were claiming that they aided — i.e. helped — me, which was the exact opposite of what happened in reality. But this way, no official report was necessary. Molding the facts to cover their backs in real time.
Sergeant came over and basically repeated to me exactly what Good Cop had said. He had a way of doing that I remembered from Tuesday. I tried to be friendly, laugh a little to show I wasn’t here to complain (at least not yet). I just wanted a copy of whatever had been filed regarding Tuesday’s chaing of events. I explained I needed it to follow up with Rutgers about the whole situation.
He left for a long time claiming he was going to see what he could do. A LONG time. Which left me standing in that small entryway dodging cops like it was a video game as they repeatedly pushed past on their very important business, which seemed to largely involve intimidating people in their general vicinity.
Good Cop came back and asked if Sergeant had been back. Nope. I’ve just been standing here. He went to find him.
Sergeant reappeared, a little surprised I was still there it seemed. Ignoring people must be a tried-and-true police tactic in efforts to get them to go away. He gave me a phone number. Told me to call it and request the paperwork.
OK, but I’m here right now. Can I just get it?
No. More protocol. I made him go over the exact information I’d need to ask for and exactly how to ask for it multiple times. Aided Card. My name, address, date, and precinct number.
Annoyed, I walked back to my apartment and called the number. After being transferred a few times to what they said was the correct office, the line went dead. They used the “oops I meant to put you on hold but then hung up” tactic. I tried to call back with no luck. More maddening bureacracy and protocol meant to get less persistent individuals to give up.
Fuck that phone number to nowhere. I started searching online and found the NYPD website and a link for how to request “Aided Reports.” I had to print out two copies of the same form, fill them both out with as much information as I had access to, include a self-addressed stamped envelope, and mail all this to NYPD headquarters. In hopes of getting a copy of the report then mailed out to you, no timeframe promised or indicated.
I had no faith in this seemingly antiquated form of request. It immediately seemed to be another nonsensical process meant to cause someone to make a mistake, whereupon their request would be ignored or denied. I followed the instructions to the letter, just in case, and mailed off my request and accompanying materials that day. Then I had to wait.
The only other major thing I had scheduled for that day was something I’d been looking forward to for weeks. My friend Janet Mock was premiering a new HBO documentary she’d produced and conducted interviews for — The Trans List. I’d been invited. The reception was at 6 and the film started at 7 pm.
Given the stress of the past few days, I inadvertently changed the times in my head, assuming everything started an hour later than it did. After getting ready, grabbing my coat, and heading outside, the time difference hit me. Shit. I thought I was leaving in plenty of time to get to the reception by 7, leaving at 6. In reality, the reception was just starting and it would still take me about an hour to get there possibly making me late for the film. Shit shit shit.
I thought driving might make me feel more in control. I ran back to the house, grabbed my keys and took off. Wrong. Traffic was backed up through the Midtown Tunnel because of protests around Trump Tower. At this point, I turned around looking for a spot to pull over and figure out a different route. Either that or just give up and go back home.
Then, for the very first time in my life, I had a full-fledged panic attack. I think I’d been denying the severity of everything that had happened over the past 48 hours and it finally caught up to me in spades, expressed through the anxiety of being late to this film premiere.
I couldn’t breathe. I started crying. My heart raced. I couldn’t see the road in front of me. I didn’t even know which direction I was driving in. I knew where I was generally but couldn’t figure out how to navigate. I drove around the same block more than once, then pulled over and tried to breathe. Fuck it, I’d just get on the subway. I left my car where it was, put the maximum time on the meter and walked to the subway station I knew was on that block. I couldn’t find the entrance. I called my boyfriend desperately asking where that subway stop was because I couldn’t see it. He calmly told me how to find it. I was standing directly in front of it.
In those minutes, none of that was funny, but looking back it’s quite ridiculous. I kept completely calm throughout the events of an unusually stressful week and “lost it” over being late to a movie. After being discharged from a psych evaluation, the evaluation itself and dealings with the police proved stressful enough to give me, a relatively sane individual, a panic attack as its aftermath. Ironic.
Once I found the subway station and got on the train, the panic disappeared. Magically, being around hordes of people on public transportation erased that manic earlier feeling of being out of control and helpless. Sometimes New York City offers strange moments just like that. In the noisy, calamitous midst of millions of people, you find a little quiet and clam just when you need them most. A counterintuitive salve.
Though I mostly missed the reception, I made it to the film just in time. I found a couple friends also in attendance and found seats. We got to be some of the first people to see what I knew would be a phenomenal documentary. It’s since debuted on HBO and I’d highly recommend it. Despite the ordeal it took to get there, it was a great experience in an otherwise hectic week.
Just as I thought I’d had some kind of breakthrough — that a climax had been reached and it was all denouement from there — I came home to more bullshit. I’d passed the psych evaluation with flying colors, the doctors even told me it was ridiculous to put me through it in the first place. In my mind, that meant any complaint Rutgers had received was over and done with. They took “precautions,” checked me out, and I was cleared. After all, RUPD had spent another 48 hours not attempting to contact me. The end.
I checked my email after retrieving my car from where I’d left it and going home. I’d received a letter from the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Rutgers was not dismissing the complaint even though the psych evaluation cleared me. In fact, they were doubling down on said complaint with no evidence, citing a new complaint being made now by the University itself (as an entity) claiming I violated their “Policy Prohibiting Workplace Violence.”
I was banned from stepping foot on Rutgers property, relieved of my teaching duties while an “internal investigation” took place (however long that took), and officially placed on administrative leave.
With only 3 weeks officially left in the semester, I took this action as a means to run out the clock on my employment. As an adjunct, I’m rehired each semester and was in the process of securing courses for Spring 2017 just as this complaint was made. Keeping me from speaking to anyone at Rutgers during this “investigation,” keeping me from speaking at all, also easily kept me from being rehired for Spring 2017. (Though it’s something I’m still trying to challenge.)
I received an additional email from the Office of Employment Equity about the investigation — name and contact of the investigator, reworded pieces of the above letter, and for the very first time a copy of the complaint against me, which included completely fabricated details of things that never took place.
I’d first thought the complaint was largely about my Twitter feed, but after seeing the wording, it became clear the tweets were initially used to then rewrite a back story alleging actual threats of violence that never took place. I was being railroaded. And on the basis of an anonymous complaint that led to the RUPD and NYPD action, Rutgers was now filing another formal complaint using the anonymous complainant as source material without corroborating any of it. It couldn’t be corroborated because the alleged events never happened. The investigation itself is punishment for the complaint after already clearing myself via psych evaluation.
And whomever made the original complaint knows it didn’t happen — either because they weren’t in the classroom to begin with, or they were in class and know reality doesn’t back up their story. I have all the students in that classroom as witnesses to dispute this fabricated, anonymous retelling.
This is a copy of the complaint:
That’s the entire complaint. I was dumbfounded. Obviously, I don’t dispute anything about the tweets, but they were being used out of overall context and order. And nothing about the in-class allegations is correct. It’s based on hyperbolic distortions of bits of information. Yes, there was a flag but it never left the Target bag, etc. (See Pt. 4 for the actual events as they happened.)
And it’s worth mentioning, even if I HAD burned or cut up a flag in class, that is not in violation of anything. It’s not violence. The complaint really wrests on the allegation of direct earnest violent threats — something I did not and would never do. And something that can be disproved in 5 minutes by speaking to any other student from the class.
I was fired up all over again. And now that I was on “administrative leave” I had nothing but time to investigate, challenge, and expose. None of this should’ve reached levels anywhere close to psych evals and punitive University actions. Still, not one person from Rutgers had even attempted to speak with me about it directly in an official capacity, while simultaneously telling me NOT to speak about it at all. Trying to tie my hands behind my back. Or my tongue, as the case may be.
But I’ve always believed in transparency.