She said ‘shackled,’ meant it

RID founder Jessica Berk was arrested last month after a handgun was discovered in her apartment. PHOTOS COURTESY JESSICA BERK

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  Following last week’s Villager article about her arrest after an unloaded .22-caliber pistol was found in her Christopher St. apartment, Jessica Berk called the newspaper to point out that the full story was not told — specifically, about the how she was held at the Sixth Precinct.

Berk is the founder of Residents in Distress, or RID, a quality-of-life group that made headlines in the early 2000s protesting drug dealing and prostitution on Christopher St.

She had told the paper that, after her March 31 arrest, she was “shackled” to a bench at the Greenwich Village police precinct 11 hours, with only a break for a detective’s questioning and also during a shift changeover when she was let use the bathroom and get a drink of water.

However, by “shackled,” Berk not only meant one of her hands was handcuffed to the metal bench’s armrest, but that one of her ankles was handcuffed to one of the bench’s legs, too. Initially, her left leg was shackled. But, she said, due to a medical condition, neuropathy, she has an open wound that was covered with a bloody bandage on that leg, so it hurt to have a handcuff on it. After 20 minutes, police switched the cuff to the other leg. But the double-cuffing, hand and leg, was still uncomfortable, forcing her to hunch over, she said.

In addition, Berk, in the follow-up call, said she was put in the precinct’s holding cell briefly after a male occupant was removed from it. But, soon afterward, another male arrestee was put in the cell, while she was taken out and double-shackled to the bench again.

“I said, ‘Only women get shackled?’” Berk said she protested to the police.

Berk’s attorney, Lamar Miller, did not return calls for comment. The Sixth Precinct also did not return calls for comment for this article. Last week, a Sixth community affairs officer, who said he hadn’t witnessed Berk being held at the precinct, said, “It’s ‘handcuffed,’ not ‘shackled.’ ”

A Police Department spokesperson said if an arrestee is taken to a hospital, it’s “standard procedure” to handcuff a leg. In another phone interview this Tuesday, Berk noted police, at one point, did offer to take her to the hospital since she was complaining about her bleeding leg, but she declined.

Berk said, after the precinct, she was taken to Central Booking, where she spent another 12 hours in a group cell until being released on her own recognizance.

Berk is charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal weapon possession. The RID leader said she was unaware there was a gun in her home until it was found by a worker during a court-ordered cleanup. Her next court date is May 15.

Berk previously sued the Sixth Precinct for false arrest. She added that last week’s article didn’t mention she won a large cash settlement in that suit.