Commissioner Keechant Sewell has proposed punishment for one of the New York Police Department’s top chiefs after accusations that he interfered with the arrest of a retired officer who chased three boys while armed, according to two people with knowledge of her decision.
Jeffrey Maddrey, the highest-ranking uniformed officer, has been told that the commissioner proposed he lose up to 10 vacation days, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.
They said that Chief Maddrey plans to fight the charges in a department trial that would be prosecuted by lawyers for the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency charged with investigating complaints of misconduct.
While the proposed punishment might seem light, any discipline for the chief of department would send a message about abuse of power to the 34,000 uniformed officers whom he oversees in America’s biggest police force.
The review board concluded last month that Chief Maddrey had abused his authority and “improperly influenced an arrest” when he ordered the release of the retired officer, Kruythoff Forrester, on the night before Thanksgiving in 2021.
The department said in a statement that it would not comment on open disciplinary matters.
Commissioner Sewell has rejected hundreds of disciplinary recommendations by the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who appointed Commissioner Sewell, has publicly defended him.
“I’m just so proud to have him as chief of the department,” Mr. Adams said last month, following the release of the board’s recommendation. Soon after, religious leaders marched in front of police headquarters in support of Chief Maddrey.
As first reported by the online news organization The City, department video showed Chief Maddrey striding into a Brooklyn precinct the night of Nov. 24, 2021, after he got a call that Mr. Forrester, whom he once supervised, was under arrest.
A sergeant had found probable cause to arrest Mr. Forrester after the three boys, who were 12, 13 and 14 at the time, called 911 to report he had come after them with a gun.
Mr. Forrester argued that he never unholstered his weapon and had followed the boys after one threw a basketball at a surveillance camera outside a building that his family owns in Brooklyn, breaking it.
The sergeant arrested him after the boys were able to describe Mr. Forrester’s gun accurately. Mr. Forrester was initially charged with menacing: the crime of putting another person in fear of immediate physical injury.
The Brooklyn district attorney’s office said it found “no criminality” by Mr. Forrester after reviewing video footage from police body cameras and surveillance cameras on the street, none showing Mr. Forrester holding a weapon.
Lambros Y. Lambrou, a lawyer for Chief Maddrey, rejected any wrongdoing by his client in a statement Wednesday evening. “He is — as completely, appropriately and properly evidenced by the Brooklyn DA’s decision not to criminally charge retired officer Forrester — innocent, and we look forward to a departmental trial,” Mr. Lambrou said. The trial would “completely exonerate” the chief, Mr. Lambrou added.
The review board, however, said that the sergeant had probable cause to make an arrest and that Chief Maddrey could not explain how the children each described Mr. Forrester’s “distinctive firearm so similarly,” according to its report, apparently undermining the ex-officer’s claim that he never took his weapon out.
When Chief Maddrey arrived at the precinct, he reviewed the video, then lectured the sergeant who had ordered the arrest, according to the report. Chief Maddrey told him that, as a retired officer, Mr. Forrester was allowed to carry a firearm and “that the children should have been arrested for criminal misconduct,” the report said.
Video then showed Chief Maddrey greeting Mr. Forrester in the precinct lobby and warmly shaking his hand.
Maryanne K. Kaishian, a lawyer for the boys, described the commissioner’s decision as a positive move.
“It’s certainly something that the boys were asking for,” she said. “They’re the true victims in this case. I don’t want to lose sight amid this fiasco of the true harm that was caused to them when they were chased by an adult with a gun.”