Edward Mullins, the former president of the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association who resigned earlier this month in the face of a federal investigation, defended on Monday comments he made about government officials during an NYPD departmental trial for using profane words.
"Yes, I do," Mullins responded when an attorney for the Civilian Complaint Review Board asked him if he believed comments he made in 2020 about former Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot and former city councilman Ritchie Torres were appropriate.
Mullins, who resigned from the SBA after federal agents raided the union offices and his Port Washington home on Oct. 5, is being tried by the CCRB in the department on charges he used offensive language in speaking about Barbot and Torres.
CCRB attorney Jonathan Fogel is asking that Mullins, whose retirement becomes effective on Nov. 5, be fired instead for using profanities.
The case is being tried before Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Adler.
During the trial Monday, Vogel called Mullins as a witness and asked him to explain why he thought it appropriate to call, as the attorney said in open court, Barbot and Torres derogative names.
Mullins explained that he felt had to speak out against Barbot when it was reported that she rebuffed a request by then NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan to provide needed personal protective equipment to cops.
"The members of the NYPD were in harm’s ways. … the health commissioner refused to get them personal protection," Mullins said.
Mullins said he spoke out against Torres, who in 2020 was in the middle of a campaign to run for a congressional seat in the Bronx as an openly gay person, because he accused NYPD officers of conducting a work slowdown that contributed to an increase in shootings and murders.
"The comments made by the councilman and Dr. Barbot had a direct impact on the men and women of the NYPD," said Mullins. "If I had not answered, it would be irresponsible."
After Mullins testified, both defense attorney Hugo G. Ortega and Fogel made closing arguments to Adler. Ortega said that Mullins remarks were made under the protection of the First Amendment in his private capacity as a union official and not as an on-duty NYPD officer.
The CCRB was trying to use the case to silence a union official, something that could have a chilling effect on other police union officials, he said.
Fogel argued that Mullins, while excused from duty because he was union official, still had to handle himself in a "responsible manner" under NYPD rules.
Mullins’s remarks about Barbot and Torres, who is now a member of Congress, were misogynistic and homophobic, Fogel argued. Those remarks, said Vogel, held the NYPD in lower public esteem and are not protected by the First Amendment.
Adler reserved decision and indicated he could have draft decision by Friday.
Ultimately, it is New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea who has the authority to rule on Adler’s findings.
Outside court, Ortega said he believed Mullins could lose his pension after nearly four decades if he is found guilty and terminated. Mullins declined to comment.
FBI officials have acknowledged that Mullins was under investigation but declined to elaborate.