BROOKLYN — A reputed gang member arrested last month with a loaded revolver in his pocket had a warning for the officers who grabbed him: “I’m gonna file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board against all of you.”
It wasn't the first time Quandell Bell, a suspected Bloods member who has been arrested 20 times, tried that strategy.
In 2011, Bell, 28, received a $18,500 settlement from the city after he filed a complaint and then a lawsuit that he was wrongfully stopped and handcuffed by the NYPD.
He is also the star witness against NYPD Lt. Craig Edelman, who faces a departmental trial on charges of wrongfully stopping and patting down Bell inside a city housing project after Bell filed a CCRB complaint against him.
Louis Turco, president of the lieutenants’ union, said Edelman’s case highlights how a supervisor with an unblemished record can get in trouble with the CCRB. And that sends a message through the ranks of the NYPD that to avoid trouble officers should shy away from taking police action.
Edelman, an 11-veteran, was on patrol on May 23, 2013, at about 2 a.m. when he saw a group of men standing on Dumont Avenue in front of the Marcus Garvey Housing Project in Brownsville, according to police records. One man, later identified as Bell, walked away quickly at the site of a patrol car.
He could have ignored Bell, but when Edelman saw Bell peering in and out of a second-floor stairway window, acting suspiciously, he decided to investigate. Edelman, who is part of the NYPD's Operation Impact program that targets high-crime areas, and his police driver asked Bell for identification and inquired why he was in the building.
Bell was initially evasive and stood in a way that caused Edelman to fear he might be hiding a weapon on his right side, according to police records. The lieutenant reached over and gave Bell’s side a light pat to be safe.
Finally, Bell handed over identification, and said he was visiting his grandmother in a second-floor apartment. A young woman who came to the door at the apartment said Bell’s grandmother did not live there, but she knew Bell.
Since Bell knew someone in the building and had ID, the officers let him go.
Edelman could not have known it at the time, but just days before this encounter, Bell was awarded $18,500 by the city in a settlement of the 2011 lawsuit.
Three weeks later, Bell filed a CCRB complaint against Edelman, alleging he was strip-searched, verbally abused and needlessly stopped.
On March 12, 2014, Edelman was cleared of stripping and verbally abusing Bell, but found guilty of wrongfully stopping him. He was formally charged with abuse of authority.
“Lt. Edelman felt he had every reason to take the actions he did,” said Turco, the union president. “He made a proactive decision at 2 a.m. to get out of his car in a community where crime is going up and where you want officers to engage suspicious individuals.”
Linda Sachs, the CCRB spokesperson, declined to discuss Edelman’s case. But she said the CCRB “bases its determination on the evidence, including statements from the complainant and subject officer or officers.”
On May 21, the police arrested Bell again — this time at 1:09 a.m. after Gang Squad officers on Lavonia Avenue in Brownsville noticed the handle of gun sticking out of a back pocket.
Bell tossed his .32-caliber Forjas Taurus revolver onto the ground and ran off, according to a criminal court complaint. The officers caught up with Bell at Stone Avenue, where he resisted arrest, “twisting and squirming his body and flailing his arms, refusing to be handcuffed,” the complaint says.
That's when Bell threatened to hit the arresting officers with a CCRB complaint.
The officers also found marijuana in his pockets.
Bell is being held on $1,500 bail. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. His next court appearance is slated for Aug. 1.
Meanwhile, Turco says he will appeal to the CCRB to reconsider Edelman’s case in light of Bell’s new arrest.
“Maybe the public wants our officers to be reactive, not proactive," he said, "like they were in the 1990s when crime was out of control.”