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NYPD Special Victims Chief Booted From Hunter College Sex Harass Panel

By Murray Weiss | December 19, 2011 12:32pm

The city’s top police official investigating sex and hate crimes was kicked off a recent panel discussion on sexual violence at Hunter College after a university women's group complained that the NYPD is a violent organization whose officers rape women and brutalize New Yorkers, DNAinfo has learned.

Deputy Chief Michael Osgood, commander of the Special Victims Division and the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, was told he could not join other experts just one day before the event, which focused on sexual harassment against women in the city's subway system.

"The idea was to link these two issues [transit and harassment] because they often have separate advocacy avenues, and we wanted to combine them where they overlap, which is largely the subway and bus systems,” said Josef Zende, chairperson of the Manhattan Young Democrats transportation committee that organized the event.

“There are millions of interactions between people every day, and unfortunately a large number of incidents of sexual harassment and assaults take place in public transit space,” Zende told “On the Inside.”

As the event neared, representatives from the Hunter Women’s Rights Coalition complained about having the NYPD on the panel that also included representatives from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's office, the National Organization of Women, Hollaback! and the Center for Anti-Violence Education.

The Hunter Women’s Rights Coalition cited NYPD’s recent action at Baruch College during anti-tuition demonstrations as proof of the department’s violent nature, as well as the way police handled the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

The women’s group also pointed out how two NYPD cops earlier this year were accused of — though later acquitted — of raping an intoxicated woman in her East Village apartment.

"The Hunter Women’s Rights Coalition notified us that due to the recent history of sexual violence by police officers and protests between CUNY students and the NYPD, they could not endorse a panel that had a police officer on it,” Zende explained.

The Young Democrats appealed to the coalition to not broad-brush the entire police department, and that the event would be better off with Osgood.

Deputy Chief Osgood is one of the NYPD’s most respected supervisors, and considered one of the department's stars. Before taking over the Special Victims Division, Osgood ran the Hate Crimes Task Force, where he was widely lauded for his handling of the city’s most sensitive cases. More than a year ago, Police Commissioner Kelly placed Special Victims under his command as well.

“I thought the [NYPD] would be an important part of the conversation and there is no good reason to silence a voice that should be part of the dialogue,” Zende said.

“This is a freedom of speech issue and they were essentially censoring an important conversation,” he continued. “It is very big issue. There are thousands of police officers. And I think people may have problems with individual police officers but that is not applicable to the entire organization.”

The arguments were not persuasive.

Messages and attempts to reach the Hunter Women’s Rights Coalition were not returned, as were calls to Osgood. And Gail Gottried, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor who was the moderator, also did not return a call for comment.

The Young Democrats sent an email to Osgood the day before the event, canceling his invitation and providing the reason. Zende said Osgood did not respond.

“I assume the NYPD is a busy agency and moved on,” he said.
“If the Police Department broad brushed people the way they just did, there would be hell to pay for it,” a former top NYPD official said.

Only the panel representative from NOW knew the NYPD was going to be shut out of the event, Zende said, and she took a neutral stance.

The other panelists and moderator had no idea of the move to dump Osgood, and apparently did not notice his absence.

The event attracted about 70 people, mostly young women, who participated in a 90 minute discussion, according to participants. Among the topics were the definition of gender violence, the most pressing issues facing women regarding violence, the sudden increase in sexual violence in mass transit and ways to combat it.

Future meetings are being scheduled, officials said, but it is not clear if the NYPD will be invited.