What to Know
A retired NY cop believes his personal guns were seized as retaliation for his whistleblower complaint against the county police academy
While a letter from a judge referenced "erratic, threatening and harassing conduct" by Francis Brooke, the judge could provide no details
Documents show Piermont Police Chief Michael O’Shea filed a harassment report about Brooke the day the guns were seized
Francis Brooke is still in the dark about the specific allegations. All the retired Spring Valley cop says he knows is that fellow law enforcement SWAT officers converged on his home in Pearl River in late September.
“They said, “We need to take your guns. They didn’t explain why and I didn’t argue,” said Brooke, a former SWAT team member and firearms instructor.
The officers took Brooke’s pistol permit and three licensed guns.
The 30-year plus veteran cop thinks it’s no coincidence. In 2016, Brooke filed a federal lawsuit against several law enforcement entities and police chiefs, alleging professional retaliation for reporting improper conduct at the Rockland County Police Academy. Brooke taught at the Academy for years before becoming a private contractor.
Brooke said the officers handed him a letter from Rockland County Judge Kevin Russo, stating: “I have been advised that you have engaged in an ongoing course of erratic, threatening and harassing conduct.”
Judge Russo did not provide any details. Brooke filed several freedom of information requests with various police departments, which were initially denied. A spokesman for the court system told the I-Team that judges have the right to suspend a license if they have a “good faith belief” the behavior of a licensee is “incompatible with the ability to carry a firearm.”
Brooke said he was told his guns were not yanked as part of the “red flag law,” which allows judges to temporarily remove an officer’s weapons if there is a direct threat of violence.
“I almost want it to be the red flag law because then I’d have a hearing within 3 to 6 days,” said Brooke. Six weeks later, he is still waiting for a hearing date. Judge Russo said his calendar “is particularly heavy at this time with a number of criminal trials and hearings. This a non-criminal case.”
“I have never been accused in any court of harassing or threatening anyone in 32 years of law enforcement,” said Brooke. “This is a total violation of my rights and my reputation.”
His attorney, William Wagstaff III, said, “The judge’s action was unlawful, and this is a classic example of retaliation. There is no explanation for why they would run into this man’s home like the A-Team, confiscate his guns without having any facts or any evidence, or even a complaining witness.”
The I-Team obtained internal documents from the Orangetown Police Department showing that on the day of the gun seizure, Piermont Police Chief Michael O’Shea filed a harassment report about Brooke. The investigation was closed because “complainant refused to cooperate.” O’Shea did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the report or Brooke. The Village of Piermont announced O’Shea’s retirement on October 25th. No reason was given.
Brooke said, “This continues the ongoing spiral of destroying my reputation. I had a stellar law enforcement career, so to be in this position, it’s shocking. I can’t get a law enforcement job in the county. Someone needs to be held accountable.”
The Mayor of Piermont did not respond to repeated messages. A spokesman for the Orangetown Police Department said no official investigation occurred against Brooke.
The Rockland County Attorney said the defendants deny the allegations in the federal lawsuit and that Brooke has the story wrong.