Ex−cop’s memoir calls NYPD racist

Former NYPD Sgt. Charles Castro speaks to admirers about his struggles with racism in the department during a book−signing ceremony in Corona. Photo by Jeremy Walsh
By Jeremy Walsh

A former Queens police sergeant who served as the chief of staff for Hiram Monserrate when he was a councilman has added “author” to his rÉsumÉ.

Charles Castro, 49, self−published “NYPD Blue Lies,” a memoir about his coming of age and his struggles for respect as a Latino officer in what he described as a white−dominated police culture of the 1980s and ’90s.

“I began to realize that the Police Department I was dealing with was dirty and racist,” he said at a book signing in Corona last week, noting Latino and African American officers were sometimes fired for minor infractions while officers involved in questionable police shootings, like that of unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo, were not seriously disciplined.

“These were all people taken care of by the Giuliani administration because they were white cops with friends in the administration,” he said.

A Bronx native who moved to Astoria as a teenager, Castro joined the police force in 1981. In “NYPD Blue Lies,” he chronicles some of his more exciting escapades, including defusing a hostage situation in midtown Manhattan, dealing with the fallout from having a police officer wife who posed for Playboy and struggling with racism from his fellow officers.

Castro served in the department for 17 years, including stints in the 103rd, 112th, and 115th precincts in Queens. He was fired in 1998 for providing incomplete information about a call involving a transit police officer harassing his ex−girlfriend in a case that later became a murder−suicide on a Jackson Heights street.

Bliss Verdon, 25, was shot dead June 10, 1997, by Transit Police Officer Rodney Dilbert on Roosevelt Avenue while walking home from work. She had broken up with Dilbert the previous December and called 911 to report Dilbert’s threatening behavior May 5, but no officer was assigned to her case until a month later.

Then Police Commissioner Howard Safir fired Sgt. John Taggart, who actually responded to Verdon’s initial 911 call, but failed to take a report, reports show.

Castro said he was fired for passing a note containing incomplete information regarding the call to Taggart, who was the sergeant on duty May 5.

“I was somewhat infamous,” he said. “They needed a scapegoat, and they made me a scapegoat.”

After leaving the department, Castro and a group of other Latino officers, including Monserrate, filed a class−action lawsuit against the NYPD for discrimination and won a $27 million settlement. Monserrate was assigned to the 111th Precinct in Bayside at the time.

Castro’s book received praise from a few NYPD officers, like Anthony Miranda, chairman of the National Latino Officers Association.

“He played a major role in bringing to light instances of discrimination,” Miranda said, adding, “I think your second book should be [about] your experiences with the senator [Monserrate]. I want to read that one.”

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D−East Elmhurst), who succeeded Castro as Monserrate’s chief of staff, also praised the book.

“In these pages, you will understand what unfortunately still occurs in these precincts where people of color work against a blue wall of silence,” she said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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