Bianca Forde, an assistant U.S. attorney, has filed a lawsuit against a group of officers within the New York Police Department for racially profiling her and her boyfriend after a comedy show during Thanksgiving weekend last year.
According to the New York Law Journal, Forde said she was racially profiled by police after leaving the show in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. The federal prosecutor and her boyfriend Joseph Paul, who are both Black, were allegedly pulled over for not using a turn signal. Forde said police then told Paul, who was the driver, to step out of the car.
According to the New York Post, Paul was told to take a breathalyzer test. That's when Forde said “I’m a U.S. attorney. I’m his attorney — he doesn’t have to blow.”
Paul passed the test, but Forde was charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and failure to obey police officers. The charges were eventually dismissed, but the 35-year-old prosecutor is now filing complaints against three officers.
According to the lawsuit, two of the officers involved are Fidel Hernandez and Christophe Williams. The third officer is identified as Weigand, but their first name wasn't included in the complaint.
Forde said she was put in handcuffs for giving legal advice to her boyfriend. She added that the officers denied her "the right to a fair trial by forwarding false information to the District Attorney’s Office and to the media.”
Last November, the New York Post ran a story on Forde's arrest with the headline: "US attorney Bianca Forde arrested during drunk driving stop in NYC." Police are among the sources cited in the story.
The lawsuit states that the officers “incorrectly, and unlawfully, claimed the driver of the vehicle was intoxicated” then arrested the passenger.
"Without any provocation or legal justification, the defendant police officers forcibly grabbed plaintiff and unlawfully handcuffed her,” the complaint states.
According to the Post, police said Forde jumped out of the car as officers kept telling her to stay inside and resisted when they tried to put her in handcuffs. The attorney refutes the claim in her complaint.
“At no point in time did plaintiff resist arrest in any way," the lawsuit states.
Forde said the incident has negatively impacted her life in multiple ways, including losing an opportunity for a promotion because of the arrest and having to spend $10,000 to hire a lawyer. The attorney also said she had to get mental health treatment "to cope with her emotional and mental trauma.”
Forde said she suspected that race was playing a role during the traffic stop, as the officers seemed disinterested in answering her questions.
“I’ve seen enough and read enough, and I know enough to know when racial profiling is the basis for a stop,” she said. “Yes, an officer can step folks out of the car, but you cannot selectively choose who you step out of a car based on race or other protected characteristics. And that is what was happening from my vantage point on that night, and that is why I spoke up, because that is what I’m trained to do.”