NAME: John Timoney
HOME BASE: Bahrain
DOB: July 2, 1948
DOD: August 16, 2016
This just might have been among the biggest dirt bags to wear a badge. With his tactics against protests from New York to Philly to Miami, John Timoney has turned every police department he has ran into a garden variety Weirmacht. After what he did in Miami back in 2003, however, he and many of his officers should have been on the inside of a jail cell, but instead he spent his later years giving advice to other police departments on how to deal with protesters. This netted him praise among the right, and that should be the first sign that something was wrong with him.
Born in Dublin, Ireland coming to the US at the age of 13 and raised in Washington Heights, Timoney joined the New York City Police force on July 15, 1969. Rising through the ranks rather quickly, he was at the rank of Deputy Inspector when he became notorious in 1988, leading police to attack the homeless, housing activists, squatters and massive numbers of their Tent City supporters in Tompkins Square Park. In 1994, the year Rudolph Giuliani became mayor, Timoney was tapped to be second in command of the NYPD, and nothing said ‘happy days’ more to the brutal police officers out there more than the words ‘Mayor Giuliani’. In June of 1996, Amnesty International released a report titled Police Brutality in the New York City Police Department, which used official police statistics. In it, the organization noted that in 1994, the first year that Timoney was second in command at the NYPD, the city saw ‘a 34% increase in civilians shot dead.’ In the same year, there was also a ‘53.3% increase in civilians shot dead in police custody’ as well as ‘an increase in the number of civilians injured from officers’ firearms discharge during the same period.’ Amnesty also reports that the New York City Civilian Review Board ‘reported that it received 4,920 new complaints in 1994, an increase of 37.43 percent over the previous year’. Timoney’s reign as First Deputy to the Police Commissioner saw a 50% increase of complaints in communities of color.
In 1998, Timoney became the police commissioner of Philadelphia, moving from one city with a racist repressive mayor to another that honors one from their history with a statue similar to the one of Sadaam Hussein we had seen toppled in news footage in 2003. In Philly, he tried to uphold that city’s legendary reputation of police brutality, which he must have been successful in doing because just like in NYC, complaints of police misconduct shot through the roof and reached record levels. The Police Advisory Commission said complaints for the fiscal year 2000 were the most they had received in a single year. The Commission made 13 disciplinary recommendations to Timoney as well as 17 opinions, but it had no real enforcement power and in the end Timoney implemented one recommendation, a one-day suspension. He would also pull stunts like issuing decisions before he receives the Commission’s recommendations. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer commission members have complained that Timoney had rendered their work useless, and it cost the city overall. The Police Advisory Commission’s Executive Director Hector Soto has called Timoney’s behavior ‘an attack on the concept of our commission.’
When he first took office, Timoney restructured the department’s Internal Affairs division, giving himself the ability to fire officers who were found guilty by the division. The problem was the public had to apply pressure for him to do anything at all. When officer Christopher Di Pasquale killed the unarmed Donta Dawson in 1998, Timoney would not fire him until after Philadelphia’s District Attorney brought the officer up on manslaughter charges. Then there was the case of 21 year old Calvin Saunders who was paralyzed by officers in 1997. Although an Internal Affairs report that found the officers engaged in brutality, conspiracy, and perjury, Timoney refused to act, saying, “Just because I.A. [Internal Affairs} sustains the allegations doesn’t mean the men are guilty.” One of the guilty officers was even promoted to detective.
Thomas Jones was another case that happened in July of 2000. Ten officers were videotaped kicking and hitting the suspect 59 times in 29 seconds. Timoney found the room to wiggle through, and he told the media, ‘When somebody doesn’t want to get arrested there really isn’t an easy way of doing it.’ Even after charges were dropped against the suspect, Timoney was adamant about the need to “look at what was on the officers’ minds.”
Ironically, Timoney is a guy who claims that he won’t tolerate abusive cops, and has said that he’s “got to be held responsible for the integrity of the department.” Maybe that was on the minds of demonstrators when they arrived in Philadelphia that same month to demonstrate against the Republican National Convention in an event that was called R2K, which was a play on the term ‘Y2K’ characterizing the fear at the time of an ultimate breakdown of anything connected to technology on Jan 1, 2000. Timoney was dealing with protesters with a heavy hand; arresting protesters before they even set out to demonstrate. This was the climate activists were in when on August 1, 2000, all hell broke loose. Activists clashed with the police all over the city that day resulting in over 400 arrests. For his part, Timoney spent most of his time during the convention in Philadelphia on a bicycle, and along with other officers tried to stop a group he said was trying to flip over a car on the fourth day of the convention. When he grabbed one of them to make an arrest, a flying bicycle slammed into Timoney from behind and also banged up another Philadelphia police officer, who was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion. Arrested were Camilo Vivieros, who works with tenants of low-income housing, Eric Steinbergand and Darby Landy. Four years later in court, three years after Timoney left the Philadelphia Police Department, Timoney failed to identify the person who threw the bicycle, even though in a sworn statement, he said the person who threw the bicycle at him was Vivieros, although he also said then that he never saw his face. Timoney’s testimony, along with a videotape that contradicted police accounts, helped lead to an acquittal of the defendants. This was the last group of defendants from R2K to be cleared. In fact, all 400+ defendants were cleared, had their cases dismissed or reduced to misdemeanors, and no one saw jail time. Timoney was pissed. “When it turns ugly or vandalism is involved, I have an obligation to protect my police officers and my city,” he said. “In Philadelphia, 24 police officers were injured. Not one protester was injured.” Vivieros had a rather negative opinion of Philly’s ex-commish. “When Timoney left Philly, people proclaimed him as the ‘top cop,'” he said. “Today he came back a flop. The truth came out. His is a pattern of abuse and of criminalizing dissent.”
That verdict came while Timoney had to deal with criticism regarding how he handled the FTAA protests in Miami in Nov. 2003. In 2001, Timoney left the Philadelphia commissioner position and became the chief executive officer of Beau Dietl & Associates, a 16-year-old firm founded by Timoney’s former NYPD racist colleague, Richard “Bo” Dietl, a much lauded figure among conservatives who has said on numerous occasions that sometimes you have to break the law in order to enforce it. In December 2002 Timoney was Miami’s new police chief, replacing the scandal-ridden Raul Martinez and lauded as a ‘reformer’. Everyone did not share that sentiment though. On the day of his introduction, a Latino commissioner boycotted the event and the ACLU branded him an enemy of the First Amendment. Max Rameau, a member of the community group Brothers of the Same Mind, voiced his concern about Timoney’s rep. “Given this town’s diversity, history of police abuses and range of injustices,” he said, “if we have a chief who is against people exercising First Amendment rights, or a police chief who is against civilian review, we are going to have a problem.”
Damned if he wasn’t right.
It seemed to the average activist during demonstrations in Miami, Florida relating to the negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) trade agreement in November 2003 that Timoney had a huge ax to grind after the ass whipping he took in Philadelphia. He came up with something called the “Miami Model,” a deliberate and coordinated effort by local, state and federal authorities to silence dissent through an unwarranted use of force and by unlawfully arresting hundreds of people engaging in protests. A week before the FTAA demonstrations were to begin, some people began coming into the city, and Timoney’s police force began stopping them in the streets and searching them. Some were even arrested. When the FTAA began, it got worse. Much worse. According to the Whose Florida website, Protesters were attacked by police wielding batons, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber, wooden, and plastic bullets and other chemical agents. Over 100+ protesters were treated for injuries; 12 were hospitalized. Police dispersed large groups of peaceful protesters with tear gas, pepper spray and open fire. Small groups leaving the protests were harassed, arrested and beaten. This campaign of fear and intimidation culminated in the closure and militarization of downtown Miami. There were confirmed reports of military tanks patrolling the streets after dark. Then there were reports from people being released or calling from jail of excessive brutality, sexual assault and torture going on inside. People of color, Queer and transgender prisoners were particularly being targeted. One Latino man arrested along with 62 others outside Miami-Dade County Jail, was hospitalized and put in the Intensive Care Unit for an injury he received after being beaten in the head with nightstick by an arresting officer. And should anyone think these are just complaints from a bunch of anarchist protesters blowing things out of proportion, it should be noted that among those who have complained of police misconduct was a judge presiding over the cases of some of them. Judge Richard Margolius remarked in open court that he saw ‘no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers’ during the demonstrations, saying that were it not for a police officer that recognized him, he might have been among the arrested! “Pretty disgraceful what I saw with my own eyes. And I have always supported the police during my entire career,” he said, according to a court transcript. ‘This was a real eye-opener. A disgrace for the community.”
What happened in Miami was dealt with however. 98 percent of the people arrested ended up having their charges dismissed. Miami Activist Defense (MAD) and National Lawyers Guild (NLG) attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the City of Miami, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Dade County Executive Mayor Alex Penelas, Police Chief Timoney, Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge, US Attorney General John Ashcroft and others of violating people’s Constitutional Rights. They filed the lawsuit to stop the Miami Model in its tracks so that it can no longer be used to restrict mass protests around the country.
Sadly, although the city paid out $500,000 in lawsuits, it didn’t work. Timoney still went around the country advising other cities on how to respond to demonstrators, particularly in his old stomping grounds of New York City. When the Republican Convention came to the Big Apple in 2004, the local media attempted to stir the pot of dissent against the planned demonstrations taking place that week. Now New York City has a history of suppressing protests, especially then, so Timoney is a god to city administrators – not to mention the right, who has history of suppression period. Timoney appeared appropriately enough on the Fox News Channel to address the ‘concerns’ about the protests and how the police will handle them. “The NYPD, I am sure, is coming up with a game plan that will involve a variety of tactics using both uniform and plain- clothed officers, including deep undercover,” he said. “The problem is, and I face this myself on numerous occasions, you almost have to wait until the act is committed because anything short of that, I guarantee you, they will have lawyers there claiming that the NYPD is using this as an excuse to make preemptive arrests to stifle the sense of free speech.”
It wasn’t just the lawyers. It was everyone involved. And it is not just talk. 1,700 people were arrested during the RNC that year, close to 500 of those being arrested the days before the convention even started. Aug. 31, which was the designated day of direct action, saw the most arrests: 1,200 people in four hours, most for minor offenses like parading without a permit. When police cracked down on an impromptu anti-RNC block party in Union Square, one news outlet termed the police as turning the area into “one huge holding cell”. The policing of the New York RNC was called the “Miami Model with a twist” In 2008 as things were gearing up for the RNC in St. Paul, Timoney told the Village Voice, “That’s all bullshit as far as I’m concerned.”
What was truly bullshit was the fact that Timoney lasted so long in Miami, despite how he came in. This is where we get into strange bedfellows territory because it was the Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police that made the more damaging moves on him. Timoney got a vote of no confidence in 2008 from the FOP, which was always in tussles with him over how he treated his rank and file. Timoney also started looking real shady to other people who weren’t protesters. There was the charge that he manipulated crime stats to make the city seem safer than it actually was. He lied about getting a free Lexus from a local car dealer, saying he was actually leasing it, then didn’t take responsibility for the lie when the FOP leaked the story to CBS 4 News who reported on it. His son Sean didn’t help matters much when in 2005 he was busted in a DEA sting for attempting to buy 40 pounds of pot. He was supposed to get a 40-year sentence, but after a plea served only 18 months. In 2009 Tomas Regalado, the new mayor of Miami and a Republican, became another strange bedfellow because he hated Timoney’s guts. Now the Mayor can’t fire the police chief, but he can fire the city administrator who can. Regalado, who as a member of the City Council used to mix it up with Timoney all the time, simply made it clear to the administrator that he wasn’t too keen on having Timoney around. Timoney swore to fight, saying, “You underestimate the Irish for stubbornness.” Timoney however, underestimated Regalado and the rest of Miami. On the eve of Regalado’s inauguration, Timoney tendered his resignation.
In 2011, many in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain grew weary of it’s monarchy, particularly the Al-Khalifa dynasty, and pushed for King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to be deposed. This led to to a series of pro-democracy demonstrations that became known as the Bahraini Uprising. Now when your family has ruled a kingdom for 228 years, you are not letting go easy. Things also get very bloody when you are an oppressive regime, and this was no different as dozens of protesters were killed and hundreds jailed before Al-Khalifa put down the Uprising. But protests still continue to this day, and guess who the monarchy tapped to help take them down?
In December, 2011 Timoney was hired by the Ministry of the Interior of Bahrain. The New York Times called that out quickly, suggesting that he had perhaps been hired to teach his “Miami model” of protest dispersal, involving “heavy use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges”. And true to form, Timoney made no bones about how he was in is zone in Bahrain. He stated in an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel that protests in Bahrain were banned and forcibly dispersed due to traffic concerns created by narrow streets, which made safe protest anywhere in the capital of Manama impossible. The U.K. newspaper the Guardian reported widespread criticism of Timoney’s “reliance” on tear gas, noting three deaths that occurred among the protesters since he had joined the Ministry.
Curiously, the Guardian itself was a victim of Timoney’s tactics in Miami. Guardian reporter Matthew Cassel, reported that he himself had been tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and chased by police who sought to confiscate his equipment while covering the Miami there. he argued that Timoney’s hiring demonstrated that the ruling Al Khalifa family was “more concerned with maintaining absolute power as they continue to lose further legitimacy, rather than implementing any real reforms to move past the country’s political crisis”. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, meanwhile also expressed its “concern” about the hiring at the time, noting “Timoney’s past human rights violations”. Timoney , served as Police Media Director and Security Advisor. In April 2015, Bahrain’s Interior Minister assured a U.S. Congressional delegation he will enact a series of reforms to ensure human rights and freedoms are protected. That was two days after Nabeel Rajab, a prominent foe of the monarchy was arrested and held for three months for a series of tweets that was critical of the government and it’s use of torture.
In July of 2016, it was reported that he was suffering from late stage cancer. One month later, he was dead at the age of 68. As expected, there were a lot of well wishes from law enforcement from all over the country. Not so much from the people he terrorized. Kris Hermes reminded everyone in his Huffington Post article that while many would try to laud him as some sort of innovative crime fighter, ultimately he was someone who’s true legacy was of “violent suppression that anyone who takes to the streets in protest today inevitably confronts.” Timoney was a thug, and dare we say, more of a thug than any thug he ever encountered on the beat. May he rot in Hell.