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WaHi Cops Accused of Drinking on Duty Ordered to Rehab

By DNAinfo Staff on March 1, 2012 9:16am

La Parrilla Restaurant in Washington Heights.
La Parrilla Restaurant in Washington Heights.
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DNAinfo/Carla Zanoni

By Murray Weiss and Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Staff

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Two NYPD detectives have been ordered to rehab after they spent hours drinking on duty at a Washington Heights restaurant where a waitress claims she was sexually assaulted.

The cops, who were directed by the department to go to the facility upstate, are among four detectives from the 33rd Precinct who partied at Parrilla Steakhouse on Feb. 16. All have been placed on modified duty and stripped of their guns and badges while the incident is investigated by the Internal Affairs Bureau.

Investigators are still trying to determine if one of the detectives had sex with the waitress during the four hours that he spent at the eatery on Broadway and 164th Street. 

The case is the latest black eye for the precinct — seven months ago, an off-duty 33rd Precinct officer, Michael Pena, was arrested for allegedly raping a Bronx school teacher in Inwood at gunpoint, putting women in the neighborhood on edge.

"Where are we supposed to turn if even the police are doing things like this?" asked Washington Heights resident Stephany Milagros, 28, in response to the Parrilla allegations. "What happened to upholding the law?"

The Parrilla waitress claims she was partying with the officers when she went to a back room with Det. Douglas Strong, who may face departmental charges, sources said.

She then fell asleep only to wake up to find her boss allegedly fondling her, sources said. Investigators have not been able to find Parilla's owner, but are seeking to question him, sources said.

According to sources, the woman contacted her lawyer and went to St. Luke's Hospital where she met with investigators from the NYPD's Special Victims Unit and eventually IAB.

Sources said that Strong claims that he and the other detectives came to the restaurant at 6 p.m. for a dinner break.

After a quick meal, they paid and went to leave, but the restaurant's owner invited them to stay and have a drink, according to sources.

Strong claims that the waitress sat down next to him and started drinking wine, followed by shots. She then showed him pictures of her kids and racy pictures of herself and led him to a back room, sources said.

There, they sat down on a bed and started talking, he claimed, but the woman said she was tired and started taking off her clothes before falling asleep, Strong claimed, according to the sources.

The detective covered her up and took her underwear, but insists that he did not take advantage of her, sources said. 

The case has left women in the neighborhood outraged as local politicians called for a full investigation.

"We live in a community where women are regularly demeaned and victims of sexual harassment," Washington Heights resident Carmela Pallotta told DNAinfo. "We can’t be surprised if even the people who get paid to protect us are doing things like this."

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, chairwoman of the Council's Committee on Women's Issues, said women should not be fearful about reporting sexual crimes. 

"We have a serious problem in our neighborhoods if women do not feel safe enough to go to the police for help in a situation like this," she said at a rally Tuesday night outside Parrilla that was organized by State Sen. Adriano Espaillat and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. 

The pols called for a full investigation into the allegations and for the closure of the restaurant, which they say constructed an illegal back room where the alleged assault took place and has received more than 400 noise complaints over the past five years. 

"With the accusations of sexual assault against these four NYPD detectives, the situation has taken a troubling turn for the worse," Rodriguez said. "We are calling for this restaurant to be closed down, before it brings any more negative activity to our neighborhood."