Mamaroneck Police attorney John D'Alessandro speaks out on process and procedure of the officers.
John Meore, email@example.com
Mamaroneck police have come under scrutiny in the aftermath of Gabriella Maria Boyd’s death, primarily because a lawyer for the girl’s father accused them of failing to enforce a court order that gave the father custody the day before she died in her mother’s home.
Now a lawyer for the police union is turning the tables, assailing the father’s lawyer for not doing enough to protect Gabriella.
“He may not be a criminal lawyer but he knows damn well the Constitution doesn’t give cops the right to break down the door and take a child,” John D’Alessandro said of Martin Rosen, the lawyer for Stephen Boyd. “He’s recklessly pointing fingers but can he look in the mirror and say he did his job to the best of his ability?”
The focus has not been on the violence that occurred when police arrived too late to save Gabriella on April 28. Rather questions have swirled about whether enough was done the previous day, when two officers went to the Chestnut Avenue home to serve the court order but were turned away by Cynthia Arce, Gabriella’s mother.
Before becoming an attorney and joining the Quinn Law Firm, D’Alessandro was a Yonkers detective for years. When he retired in 2005, he was commanding officer of the department’s child abuse investigation team. He had previously spent time heading the county’s child abuse team and following his retirement he was the coordinator of the county’s child fatality review team.
He said Rosen should have done several things that might have convinced police the girl was in danger:
- Rosen should have gotten an order of protection.
- He should have included emergency language directing police to act.
- He should have provided an official copy of the order — with the affidavit detailing the underlying concerns — to police, D’Alessandro said.
D’Alessandro said there was no sense of urgency on the part of police because there was nothing that led them to believe she was in danger.
“I can’t think of any cops who would have knocked down the door in this circumstance,” he said. “There just wasn’t enough there.”
Asked in an email Friday about D’Alessandro’s criticism, Rosen said he would respond after he returns from a vacation in Europe on Tuesday.
He did insist that it was “obvious that the judge felt (the) child was in danger. That is why the Order to Show Cause was signed in the form that was submitted.”
The facts so far
Just after 1:30 p.m. on April 28, police responded to 507 Chestnut Ave. on a 911 call from the owner, Gabriella’s grandmother. They found the 2-year-old unresponsive and tried CPR. Arce allegedly attacked two officers with a pair of knives. An attempt to subdue her with a stun gun failed and another officer shot and injured her.
Gabriella later died at the hospital. The cause of death is still undetermined as the Medical Examiner awaits test results.
Arce was charged with attempted aggravated murder of a police officer and remains held without bail.
Two days after Gabriella’s death, Rosen held a press conference criticizing the police and District Attorney’s Office for “refusing” to enforce the order.
Village and police officials were mum in response, leaving police frustrated, D’Alessandro said. The Village of Mamaroneck Police Benevolent Association put out a statement two days later saying the officers had no indication that Gabriella was in danger and that they were told they had no authority to enter the home to take the girl.
The document police presented to Arce was a Family Court order granting temporary physical custody of Gabriella to the father, Stephen Boyd, and barring Arce from having contact with Boyd and the toddler.
Rosen had crafted the language as part of an Order to Show Cause he submitted to Judge Hal Greenwald on April 26, the day that Stephen Boyd received a disturbing phone call from Arce that led him to believe she was going to harm herself.
Greenwald signed the order on April 27 and Rosen sent a copy of it to Boyd, who went to police headquarters to get them to serve the court order on Arce so he could get his daughter.
Everyone seems to have assumed that Arce would comply. Nobody planned for what would happen when she didn’t.
Stronger court order language?
Because Rosen wrote out the order that the judge signed, he could have written in language that police were directed to take the child, D’Alessandro suggested.
Then if the judge crossed it out, that would have said something about how serious he thought the situation was. If the judge kept that language in, that would have been the guidance police needed.
“That would have done the trick,” D’Alessandro said. “If the judged signed an order with that, it would have given cops the clear authority to take action and get the girl.”
Rosen did not directly address D’Alessandro’s point that Rosen should have included emergency language in the court order or language directing police to remove the child.
Even though police did not suspect Gabriella was in danger, they didn’t give up immediately.
They contacted a supervisor, who told them to reach out to the District Attorney’s Office. It was a Friday evening, so they reached out to prosecutors who were on weekend duty. They eventually heard back from Assistant District Attorney Mary Clark DiRusso, of the domestic violence bureau, who told them they had no authority to enter the house to get the girl.
“They’re cops, they have high school degrees, they’re not lawyers, they call the people who are supposed to have the answers,” D’Alessandro said. “And Mary made exactly the right call with what they had.”
Abuse hotline called
Police also called the state child abuse hotline, which triggered a notification of Westchester Child Protective Services. CPS initiated an investigation and reached out to the Mamaroneck police officers.
CPS investigators went to the house late that night but there was no answer. They did not ask for police to accompany them.
Police never went back to the house on Friday night or Saturday morning.
In refusing to comply with the order, Arce told the officers that Boyd had visitation with Gabriella the following day and they would handle it then.
D’Alessandro said the officers asked to see Gabriella but that Arce told them she was sleeping.
“If there was some belief that she was in danger, they would have said, ‘I don’t care if the child is asleep, wake her up and let us see her,’ ” D’Alessandro said. “But there was none of that.”
The visitation never took place as Arce told Boyd Saturday morning that Gabriella was sick and that she was taking her to the pediatrician. When Boyd checked with the doctor, at Rosen’s urging, he learned no appointment had been made.
Saturday morning actions questioned
If Rosen was fearful that Gabriella was in danger, D’Alessandro asked, why didn’t he or Boyd reach out to police Saturday morning to let them know Arce wasn’t going forward with the visitation and had lied about the pediatrician?
Asked whether police could have pursued an arrest warrant for criminal contempt because Arce was refusing a court order D’Alessandro said that was possible.
But he said that might not have been appropriate because they only had a copy of the order not the original and that might not have been proper service. There would have been some question about whether Arce could have intentionally violated a court order that she wasn’t properly served.
But D’Alessandro wasn’t certain that avenue was even explored by police and prosecutors.
He said the officers involved remain saddened by Gabriella’s death but are confident they did what they could with the information they had.
“The Mamaroneck cops have become the villains here but they had the least control in this whole situation,” D’Alessandro said. “We strongly believe they did everything they could. They didn’t blow this off. They took it very seriously and tried to do everything they could do within the law.”
Reporter Jorge Fitz-Gibbon contributed. Twitter: @jonbandler
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