The NYPD says the Civilian Complaint Review Board has taken over the investigation into a video that appears to show a police officer verbally abusing an Uber driver in an at-times xenophobic roadside tirade in the West Village Monday.
Police confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that the plain-clothed man seen screaming in the now viral video is a member of the NYPD, but they did not identify him. A spokesman said the department is "aware of the incident and video and it is under review."
The NYPD later said that the CCRB, an independent city agency with subpoena power, has taken over the investigation.
The video was posted to YouTube by Sanjay Seth, one of the passengers in the Uber car. Seth tweeted that he testified Wednesday before the CCRB and "They are taking this complaint seriously."
According to Seth's YouTube post, his Uber driver honked his car horn at the officer later seen screaming in the video because the officer was trying to park on a Sixth Precinct street in the middle of the afternoon without using any blinkers or hazard lights, and the Uber driver's path to a green light was blocked.
The officer, seen wearing a green tie and blue shirt at points in the passenger video, got out of his unmarked car, which had flashing blue and red lights on the dashboard, and flagged down the Uber driver.
The three-minute video begins as the officer approaches the Uber driver's window and starts yelling at the driver, raising his voice over the Uber driver's muted apologies and efforts to interject.
"Stop it with your mouth, stop it with your, 'For what, sir,'" the officer is heard saying in the video as he curses. "Stop it with that ... and realize the three vehicle and traffic law violations you committed."
"You understand me? I don't know what [epithet] planet you think you're on right now," the officer yells, making fun of the Uber driver's accent.
The officer then slams the hood of the Uber car and walks away; the Uber driver tries to apologize to his passengers, who tell him it was not his fault and inform him a video of the exchange was recorded. One of the passengers said it appeared the officer was on a "power trip"; the other called the man's behavior "really inappropriate."
The officer returns to the Uber car about 90 seconds after slamming the hood and storming off, the video shows, and continues to curse at and belittle the driver. The driver keeps trying to defuse the situation with respectful apologies. Then the officer goes off on him.
"I don't know where you're coming from or where you think you're appropriate in doing that," the man yells, apparently in reference to the car honk from earlier. "That's not the way it works. How long have you been in this country?"
"Almost how long? Two years?" the officer yells after the driver whispers a response. "I got news for you, and use this lesson: Don't ever do that again. The only reason you're not in handcuffs going to jail and getting summonses in the precinct is because I have things to do.
"That's the only reason that's not happening, because this isn't important enough to me, you're not important enough," he says.
The officer turns toward the passengers in the back seat, asks if they are fares and says something about the Uber driver wasting their days, too. The officer hands the driver some kind of piece of paper that looks like a ticket and leaves as the passenger cellphone video pans to the flashing lights on the dashboard of his vehicle, parked behind the Uber car.
Seth posted video of the exchange on multiple social media accounts. On his Facebook page, he wrote, "Our Uber driver, Humayun, was abused by a police officer today in New York. The rage, door slamming, throwing items into the car, threatening arrest without cause was bad enough -- but the officer's remarks at the end really took it to another level."
Seth wrote on Facebook that he reported the exchange to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. According to his profile, Seth works at a nonprofit in the city and used to work for the parks department.
Asked about the exchange by NBC 4 New York, Seth wrote, "This very unfortunate incident is between the driver, Uber, the officer, and the relevant authorities."
Uber called the behavior in the video "wrong" and "unacceptable," and said it appreciated the NYPD investigating.
"We are in touch with our driver-partner who was subjected to this terrible experience and will continue to provide any support he needs," Matthew Wing, a spokesman for the ride share company, said.
Michael Palladino, the president of NYPD detective's union, defended the officer portayed in the video, saying that "cops are just like everyone else." He said that the cop "is a person of good character and an excellent detective."
"He really should not be judged by one isolated incident," Palladino said.
The CCRB handles complaints about four kinds of alleged police misconduct: force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language.