A former New York police chief was arrested Wednesday for allegedly assaulting a handcuffed man in custody and conspiring to cover up the beating. Although the police chief coerced his fellow officers into lying for him, a federal grand jury decided to indict him for abusing his authority.
Arrested for multiple parole violations on December 14, 2012, Christopher Loeb was taken into custody at his mother’s house on Long Island. A subsequent search of the house revealed a large cache of merchandise stolen from over a dozen vehicles, including a Suffolk County Police Department-issued SUV operated by then-Police Chief James Burke.
According to court documents, Loeb had stolen Burke’s gun belt, several magazines of ammunition, a box of cigars, a humidor, a canvas bag containing toiletries, clothing, sex toys, and a porn video from his department-issued vehicle. As Burke was allowed to retrieve the items from the scene, Loeb was transported to the SCPD’s Fourth Precinct where detectives began interrogating him. Handcuffed and chained to a bolt in the floor, Loeb found himself completely helpless as Burke entered the interrogation room allegedly punching and kicking him in the torso and head.
After reportedly threatening to kill Loeb, Burke convinced the detectives who witnessed the beating to give false statements in order to protect the volatile police chief. In October 2013, one of those detectives allegedly testified falsely under oath in a pretrial hearing in the Loeb prosecution, denying that Loeb had been assaulted.
“Knowing Burke’s reputation for violating the law and seeking retribution against those who went against his corrupt orders, the witnesses feared their careers would be destroyed if they did not join Burke’s conspiracy to cover up the assault of Loeb,” prosecutors wrote.
Burke resigned two months ago amid the federal investigation. On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted Burke for violating Loeb’s civil rights by assaulting the handcuffed man and conspiracy to obstruct a federal civil rights investigation into the attack. Burke was placed under arrest on Wednesday.
“We entrust our law enforcement officials with the tremendous responsibility to uphold the Constitution and protect the communities they serve as they enforce the law. Wearing a badge is a privilege and honor – not a license to exact retribution and corrupt the administration of justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Robert Capers. “We will protect the rights of all no matter where the evidence may lead, and those who break the law will be held to account regardless of their rank and status.”