A Baltimore police officer was suspended yesterday after a YouTube video surfaced on the Internet showing him berating and manhandling a teenage skateboarder at the Inner Harbor.
On the video, the officer, Salvatore Rivieri, puts the boy in a headlock, pushes him to the ground, questions his upbringing, threatens to "smack" him and repeatedly accuses the youngster of showing disrespect because the youth refers to the officer as "man" and "dude."
At one point, Rivieri, a 17-year veteran of the force, says:
"Obviously, your parents don't put a foot in your butt quite enough, because you don't understand the meaning of respect. First of all, you better learn how to speak. I'm not `man.' I'm not `dude,' I am Officer Rivieri. The sooner you learn that, the longer you are going to live in this world. Because you go around doing this kind of stuff and somebody is going to kill you."
Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department and the mayor's office, said authorities have begun an internal-affairs investigation.
"The entire incident raised red flags for all of the members of the command staff who watched the video," Clifford said.
He said yesterday afternoon that Mayor Sheila Dixon had not seen the video, which appears to have been shot last summer, but that its contents had been described to her and that she was "very displeased."
"We have invested a lot of time and energy in having better relations between the community and the police," Clifford said. "The bad behavior of one police officer can jeopardize a lot of hard work."
Clifford said Rivieri's suspension entails a transfer to administrative duties with pay.
Reached at home Sunday, Rivieri said he was not aware that the incident had been recorded or posted to a public Web site. He acknowledged having encounters with skateboarders at the Inner Harbor last summer and told a reporter that he would review the video on YouTube.
"These kids, they've got nothing better to do," Rivieri said.
Yesterday, after being suspended, Rivieri said, "I have no comment. Thank you."
Attempts to e-mail the person who posted the video were unsuccessful. Police said they do not know the identity of the youth involved or who shot the video.
Clifford said the department has tried to e-mail, through YouTube, the person who posted the video and is contacting area schools in an attempt to find the boy.
Skateboarding is not permitted in the Inner Harbor.
Paul Blair, head of the police union, had not seen the video but cautioned that videos show only a slice of a story. He noted that it is impossible to know what happened before or after the camera was turned on.
The video came to the attention of the police after a Sun reporter e-mailed the link to the police Sunday morning seeking comment.
The video was posted on YouTube on Saturday but probably was made late last summer, according to the Police Department.
The 3 1/2 -minute video shows Rivieri walking toward a group of boys, one of whom is holding a skateboard. The boy says he did not hear an order that the officer had given him before the video starts.
"Take the earplugs out of your ears. Can you hear me now? Hey, I'm talking to you. Can you hear me?" Rivieri says.
Rivieri tells the boy he is not allowed to use his skateboard.
"OK, I didn't hear you," the boy says.
"Don't get defensive with me," Rivieri says. "You backed off me. I'm not your father. You hear me. I'm not your father. You give that attitude to your father. You give it to me and I'll smack you."
One boy says, "I don't have a father."
"Shut your mouth, I'm talking," Rivieri says.
One boy repeatedly uses the word dude when addressing Rivieri, and the word becomes a point of contention.
"Sit down. I'm not a dude," Rivieri says. He then pushes a boy to the ground and walks away with his skateboard.
"Dude, don't take my skateboard. I didn't do anything, dude," the boy says.
Rivieri replies: "If you call me dude one more time. ... Are you from the county or something?"
The officer's tone becomes increasingly harsh.
The boy, who says on the video that he is 14, says he wants to call his mother, and later the officer asks to speak with her. It is unclear whether that conversation took place.
The person who made the video does not talk and is never identified, though at one point Rivieri addresses the person with the camera, saying, "You got that camera on? If I find myself on ... " The video cuts off before Rivieri finishes his sentence.
Clifford said the boy never made an official complaint to the Police Department and that Rivieri has no other citizen complaints in his file.