African American Dentist Sues NYC After Police Accuse Him of Breaking Into Own Office
New York, NY(Law Firm Newswire) June 23, 2021 – An African American dentist in Manhattan filed a lawsuit against the City of New York for $5 million, alleging multiple civil rights violations.
Benjamin Shirley, 41, said police officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) racially profiled him when they accused him of breaking into his own office while he was working late on March 9, 2020. Shirley briefly left his Upper West Side office building around midnight to take out the trash.
Surveillance video footage showed police officers approaching the door with shining flashlights. They used the intercom to demand that Shirley produce identification. The lawsuit claimed two officers tried to unlawfully enter the property “by force” and threatened to break into the office if the dentist failed to come outside even though there was no “probable cause or reasonable belief” that he had committed a crime.
“Civil rights violations can occur in many different ways, whether it is a false arrest or other forms of police misconduct,” commented Peter Brill, a New York criminal defense lawyer with Brill Legal Group, who is not involved with the case. “Taking legal action is a way to hold individuals, police departments and other law enforcement agencies who abuse their power accountable for their actions.”
Shirley’s claim alleged unlawful detainment, false arrest, illegal search and seizure, trespass, and negligence. The dentist said he called 911 because the encounter left him fearing for his life. His attorney told media outlets that he did not go outside right away to cooperate with the police because he was scared.
Two more NYPD officers arrived at the building after around 30 minutes. They allegedly refused to leave the property until Shirley came outside and presented his state-issued driver’s license. The lawsuit claimed he had to show his identification several times even though his office address was visible.
Shirley regularly worked late hours at the office building. He kept his practice open until 10 p.m. to accommodate patients who were unable to attend daytime appointments.
“There is legal recourse available to anyone who has experienced a violation of their constitutional rights,” said Brill. “An experienced civil rights violations attorney can help pursue damages through a civil rights claim.”