The head of one of Brooklyn’s most troubled police precincts will be transferred to another post after protests from community activists.
Inspector John Mastronardi, commanding officer in East New York’s 75th Precinct, will be moved elsewhere in the Chief of Detectives’ office sometime this month. The planned move was first reported by the New York Daily News.
The 75th Precinct has long been a hot spot for issues related to public safety and criminal justice reform. As Bklyner has previously reported, Last year, the precinct, had both the most shooting incidents and the highest number of police misconduct complaints of anywhere in the city.
Mastronardi, 44, who has served in the police department for over 20 years, became a lightning rod for criticism last April over his handling of a fight between precinct officers and civilians over mask rules that was caught on video.
In that incident, cops had been called to break up a gathering of eight people on Sutter Avenue and Hemlock Street. The situation apparently escalated as civilians at the scene asked the commander and other officers why they weren’t wearing masks.
Mastronardi was accused of slamming East New York resident Adegoke Atunbi’s head into the sidewalk during the confrontation. His then-boss, Assistant Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, reprimanded the Inspector for not wearing a mask during the confrontation.
Mastronardi was also involved in another physical confrontation on May 30 of last year, this one during a protest in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. In that incident, Mastronardi was injured and lost teeth in a fight with protestors outside the 88th Precinct in Clinton Hill.
A spokesperson for the NYPD did not directly address Bklyner’s questions about the reasons for Mastronardi’s move, or about who might replace him. The spokesperson, Detective Denise Moroney, said simply: “With the recent changes coming to the Chief of Department’s and Chief Of Detective’s offices we anticipate several executive announcements in the near future.”
Earlier this year, local activists led by the Reverend Kevin McCall launched an online petition calling for Mastronardi’s removal, which has collected about 260 signatures. McCall, founder of the Crisis Action Network, told Bklyner he was happy to hear the news of Mastronardi’s transfer.
“You want to hold the number one title in something positive,” he said. “Not holding the number one title in crime, violence and police misconduct. We will change the outlook on the 75th Precinct. Power belongs to the people. Good riddance John.”
The area’s local Assemblymember, Charles Barron, reacted similarly. He called Mastronardi “a nightmare” and said he wanted an independent investigation into the Inspector’s conduct.
“We are glad he’s gone, but he shouldn’t get away with just being moved,” Barron told Bklyner. “He should be punished, he should be held accountable for abusiveness for how he treated the people in our community.”
Barron said the move was an example of why he and his wife, Council Member Inez Barron, were pushing for the city to create an independent investigator for police misconduct, and for the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board to have more authority of officer discipline.
He said he had not yet heard news about who the NYPD planned to put in the role next, but said was “tired of the NYPD making that decision,” and wanted residents to have a say in who the CO of their community would be.
“The Inspector’s move does not solve the real problem we have in every precinct of police mistreating innocent black civilians,” he said.
Vincent Riggins, co-chair of local Brooklyn Community Board 5’s Public Safety Committee, said was sometimes frustrated with Mastronardi’s unwillingness to meaningfully engage community members. He said that Mastronardi had resisted organizing online meetings of the precinct community council, and approached community engagement “by dictate” rather than by collaboration.
But, like Barron, he emphasized that the problem with policing was much bigger than one person.
“Transferring one CO is not a solution to systemic problems of policing in our community,” he told Bklyner. “All people have been asking for accountability. The things he did were also done in other places.”