NEW YORK — The city won't defend a police supervisor accused of pepper spraying Occupy Wall Street protestors in a civil lawsuit filed by two demonstrators — a rare move that may leave him on the hook for all of his legal fees and damages.
Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, who appears in a video to be using pepper spray against a group of demonstrators in September 2011, was sued in Manhattan Federal Court in February by two of the protesters, Chelsea Elliot and Jeanne Mansfield.
And two more protesters filed three separate civil lawsuits against the city on Tuesday, two of which named Bologna. The city has not yet decided if it will represent Bologna in those cases and it has not received the legal papers.
The city's Law Department made the decision not to represent Bologna in the Elliot/Mansfield case, in which the women accused him of spraying them for no reason. It's an unusual move — the city has taken that stance in less than 5 percent of federal civil rights cases filed against police officers over the last five years, according to the Law Department.
Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo said in a statement that state law prohibits the city from defending employees who've violated "agency rules and regulations."
"Since an internal Police Department review found that Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna had violated agency rules in connection with the Occupy Wall Street incident, we determined the City could not represent or indemnify him in the Elliot case," Cardozo said.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly slammed the city's decision at an event Friday.
"I think it can have a chilling effect on police officers taking action," he said. "It's a discretionary decision by the Corporation Counsel and I'm concerned about an adverse effect on officers' willingness to engage."
Bologna's union, the Captains Endowment Association, said it will cover the costs of the 29-year-veteran's legal defense, but not damages.
"We are prepared to defend the inspector in this action," said union president Roy Richter. "He was one of the most trained in disorder control."
But Bologna's lawyer, Louis La Pietra, said that he will be appealing the city's decision and would not be surprised if the same move was made in the other cases.
"He was acting as deputy inspector and not as himself," said Louis La Pietra, Bologna's lawyer. "Otherwise, why would he have been out there?"
The video, showing Bologna aiming pepper spray at a group of female demonstrators who were standing behind an orange police netting, sparked a firestorm of criticism after it hit the Internet.
In the wake of the Sept. 24 incident, Bologna received a departmental punishment and was docked 10 vacation days.
Additional reporting by Ben Fractenberg