NYPD Cop Left Creepy Voicemail for 311 User After Illegal Parking Complaint, CCRB Finds

The New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board has recommended disciplinary charges against a city police officer for crank calling a Brooklyn man who filed 311 complaints about illegal parking – and for misleading investigators about the episode.

(Dave Hosford via Flickr)
(Dave Hosford via Flickr)

The New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board has recommended disciplinary charges against an NYPD officer for crank calling a Brooklyn man who filed 311 complaints about illegal parking – and for misleading investigators about the episode.

The board found that Brendan Sullivan, a 15-year veteran of the NYPD, “made sexually suggestive remarks to Paul Vogel,” the 311 user, and “provided a misleading official statement to the CCRB,” according to a letter the CCRB sent to Vogel.

The board is recommending its most serious level of discipline against Sullivan, called “charges and specifications,” although it will not disclose the proposed punishment until the case goes before an administrative law judge, according to CCRB spokesperson Clio Calvo-Platero. That trial likely won’t happen until next year at the earliest. Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell will ultimately decide whether to accept the recommendation and punish Sullivan.

The board’s determination is the first public finding by the city that an NYPD officer was behind any of the allegedly harassing calls and voicemails that 311 users have received from anonymous callers after filing 311 complaints to the NYPD – a pattern that Streetsblog reported on last year. It also appears to be the first time that an agency has recommended disciplining an officer for mishandling 311 complaints since the Department of Investigation launched an inquiry into the harassment pattern last year.

It may not be the last time. DOI said its investigation is ongoing. And Vogel said he’s also been interviewed by NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.

Paul Vogel (Photo: Wyatt Vogel)
Paul Vogel Photo: Wyatt Vogel

Vogel, a 50-year-old Prospect Heights resident who works for a reproductive health non-profit, said he files dozens of 311 reports each month about cars parked on sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes and pedestrians islands in his neighborhood – and includes his name and phone number in the reports. Like other 311 users, Vogel says police officers close out most of his complaints without actually fixing the reported problems, while stating otherwise in their official responses in the 311 system.

Nor is Vogel the only 311 user to receive barrages of phone calls from blocked phone numbers – some in the middle of the night – after filing illegal parking complaints to the NYPD. (Even Council Member Bob Holden of Queens said he’s gotten “inappropriate” calls at 3 a.m. after 311 complaints.)

One thing that may set Vogel apart: he held on to the bizarre voicemails from anonymous callers that followed his 311 reports.

“Hi Paul,” begins one from March 2, 2021. “Just calling to see how you’re doing. I thought I saw you on Vanderbilt, but I guess not. I tried to wave you down. Just want to let you know that I miss you, and I hope you pick up my call next time. You’re still the best I ever had. I hope you still dream about me. Love you baby boo. Bye Paulie V.”

Listen to it yourself:

Other voicemails contained only the sound of heavy breathing or someone saying Vogel’s name repeatedly, according to copies he shared with Streetsblog.

But it was the March 2021 voicemail that appears to have sparked the CCRB rebuke. The board’s letter lists the date of Sullivan’s “sexually suggestive remarks” as March 2, 2021.

Sullivan did not respond to requests for comment left at phone numbers listed under his name in a court filing and in other public records. The city’s police officers union did not respond to a request for comment.

The NYPD did not say whether it would discipline Sullivan and it did not answer other questions, except to say that “the incident is under internal review” and “the officer’s duty status is modified.”

NYPD records show Sullivan was reassigned last month to the “Quartermaster Section,” where the department keeps office supplies. An NYPD source told Streetsblog the transfer was likely a punishment.

This is not the first time  that Sullivan has landed in hot water for his police work. Court records show he was among a group of officers sued in 2015 by a former member of the force who alleged Sullivan and the other cops relentlessly bullied him and made anti-Semitic jokes. The ex-cop, David Attali, is Jewish.

According to the lawsuit complaint, Sullivan sent Attali a photo of Hitler giving a Nazi salute, told other cops on a group text to “txt the jew every 45 min,” and called Attali a “dirty spy.”

In a deposition, Sullivan admitted he’d sent Attali a photograph of dead bodies from the Holocaust, texted Attali about “one of Hitler’s experiments, the super human penis,” and that he “basically” texted Attali that “gay Hitler still had results.”

Screen Shot 2022-08-26 at 12.46.45 PM
Excerpts from Brendan Sullivan’s 2017 deposition.

Sullivan also admitted that he gave false answers in a probe launched by the NYPD’s Equal Employment Opportunity office after a complaint from Attali.

The case settled for an undisclosed sum. The NYPD docked Sullivan 30 vacation days, put him on probation and transferred him to Police Service Area 2, where Vogel lives. Sullivan made $112,000 in fiscal year 2021, payroll records show.

Vogel is glad that the city is taking action in his case, but he said his experience is a symptom of a larger issue.

“Clearly when someone from the Police Department uses [my contact information included in 311 reports] to harass me, that’s a gross violation of trust, and it’s unethical, and it should be illegal,” Vogel said. But “this is and isn’t about P.O. Sullivan. It’s about the pattern. It’s about the dangerous conditions that exist in the first place. It’s about 311,” he said. “That’s the bigger problem.”

Asked about Vogel, DOI Spokeswoman Dianne Struzzi said, “DOI completed its investigation into this matter and a related matter earlier this year and referred our findings to the NYPD for further action.”

She added, “DOI continues to monitor and investigate harassment allegations by complainants who called 311 about illegal parking. DOI encourages any complainant to contact DOI at (212) 825-5967.”

Ray Legendre, a spokesman for the Office of Technology and Innovation, which oversees 311, did not respond to questions about what steps has OTI head Matthew C. Fraser taken to prevent city employees from using the 311 system to allegedly harass 311 users, or about why OTI has repeatedly delayed releasing 311 customer satisfaction survey results requested by Streetsblog under New York’s Freedom of Information Law.

“OTI is in the process of fulfilling this FOIL request,” Legendre said.

After this story published, an OTI spokesperson provided the following additional statement:

“Millions of New Yorkers seeking essential government services entrust 311 with their personal information every day. The majority of service requests can be filed anonymously, but when provided, 311 strictly adheres to its privacy policy in handling personal information. Any misuse of 311 services is taken very seriously and we will fully cooperate with authorities in all investigations.”

Oren Yaniv, a spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, did not answer questions about whether the office contacted Vogel because it suspects criminality in the matter.