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Woman makes serious claims against police department
ROTTERDAM -- A woman begins to take action against the town of Rotterdam Police Department after she says she was falsely arrested and assaulted by police. Her case never made it to court, and when we started digging, saw that the police report left more questions than answers about what happened.
Carla Cerniglia states in a notice of claim that her civil rights were violated and while no one on the town's end is talking about it, open government advocates wonder why the police department might not want to disclose everything that should be public record.
They're serious accusations a woman is making against Rotterdam's law enforcement agency, but many of the details of Carla Cerniglia's arrest, which are usually open to anyone, are blacked out in police papers. In fact, much of it is redacted. It does show that police responded to a call made from this Cumberland Farms shop as a DWI complaint which ended up in the area of Mercer Avenue nearby.
The incident report says Cerniglia "became verbally abusive to officers, yelling loudly and repeatedly swearing in the street," and also pushed an officer, and indicates she resisted arrest. But, her name is hidden from the paperwork as is her description, and the names of the responding officers.
Robert Freeman with the New York State Committee on Open Government says many elements of these documents we can't see have historically been public.
There was no charge, which means that the sealing statute doesn't apply, the Freedom of Information law does, Freeman said. Significant elements of an arrest report are public including the name of the person who's been arrested, and certainly the identities of the arresting officers.
Out of this incident, Cerniglia claims that officers knew she "did not commit any offense, yet they assaulted and arrested the claimant, all in violation of her civil rights, and it goes on to say the department "negligently, carelessly, and recklessly struck, shoved, and grabbed the claimant with unnecessary force," also stating Cerniglia was injured in the process.
We went to the Rotterdam Police Department but were not offered any explanation on the redactions or the case. The town supervisor was unavailable today, and the town attorney told me she couldn't comment on the subject matter in the notice. Calls to Cerniglia's attorney were not returned. We found someone who said he was Cerniglia's son, who said he would call his mom for us, but we didn't hear back.
Documents show Cerniglia was released after being placed in to custody. CBS6 also called the New York Civil Liberties Union this afternoon. It told me that the redactions were "typical," and not terribly out of the ordinary.