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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

DC 37, Local 983 push for hate crime charges in SI assault on PEP Officers


Parks Enforcement Patrol Officers arrested a Staten Island man who sped through a 5 mph zone at the Greenbelt Recreation Center, screamed racial slurs and threats, and spat on the Black PEP workers on Dec. 28.

When the NYPD let Jake Grogan, 21, of West New Brighton, walk away with just a Feb. 28 desk appearance ticket, the PEP Officers could not believe their eyes. They called their union, and DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido and Local 983 President Joe Puleo immediately contacted the Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon to demand “a thorough investigation.” Their letter urged the DA to escalate the charges against Grogan to hate crimes and to prosecute him “to the fill limit of the law.”

“We feel like this guy can be a potential ticking time bomb,” Puleo said. DA McMahon added a misdemeanor hate crime charge in January.

In Dec. 2021, the Parks Department had assigned about seven Black and Hispanic PEP Officers to direct traffic at the Greenbelt recreation center that NYC Health+Hospitals uses as a COVID-19 vaccination site. A long line of vehicles snaked into the 50-space parking lot.

“Hundreds came out as the Omicron variant spiked during the holidays. We were assigned traffic and crowd control,” Sgt. Dornell Grant said.

PEP Officer Nakuza Rose saw a car speed through the lot and told the driver to slow down. Grogan jumped out of the car to get the hat that blew off his head. Officers Rose and Grant approached and asked him for identification. He exploded, screaming the N-word and a tirade of insults and threats, according to their official report.

“I tried to de-escalate the situation. He rolled up his sleeves and threw dirt, sticks, and punches at us and he spit at us,” Grant said. “Once he spit, we went to make an arrest. He was still spewing racial remarks at us. We used a two-man take down to apply handcuffs and took him to the 122 Precinct on Hylan Boulevard,” Grant said.

The Pep Officers charged Grogan with aggravated harassment, obstructing government administration, and reckless driving. PEP Officers are the Parks Department’s unarmed law enforcement of peace pfficers who keep parks safe, issue summonses, and make arrests.

“Spitting on a PEP Officer is an assault, that’s the law,” Grant said. “That this happened at a vaccination site during a global pandemic is especially concerning.”

Assault on a New York public servant while acting within their duties is a violent felony that carries a minimum two-year prison sentence.

“An assault on a Peace Officer is different than an assault on an individual,” Puleo said. “With an assault charge on an individual, they must show some markings or bruising. But when it’s against a Police Officer or a Peace Officer, they do not have to show scars. But that day the 122 Precinct treated Mr. Grant as if he was a regular person when Mr. Grant is a symbol of authority.”

Grant said Grogan even bragged to the police about his actions. NYPD Deputy Tim Wilson ultimately intervened and Grogan was charged on three counts except hate crimes.

“Even with the NYPD assistance, I thought Grogan would be charged with a hate crime, but that didn’t happen,” Grant said. “This guy has no respect for authority. He had priors for criminal mischief and three domestic violence charges. If he had assaulted a police officer, he would not be allowed to walk free. I believe stiffer penalties are necessary to send the message that his behavior is unacceptable.”