1998Commentary

Gal Pal: He Couldn't Do It

Accused officer's girlfriend stands by her man
By: 
Mike McAlary
August 18, 1997

index | next

A week ago, she walked into the 70th Precinct, past the front desk to the stairs. As she climbed the steps to her office, she felt the eyes of the entire stationhouse on her again. She thought she was past all that.

Susan, a 26-year-old civilian employee, is a black woman in love with a white cop. She and Justin Volpe are the Seven-O love story and have been so for some time.

Click image for larger view.

Then one of her friends -- a cop; it's one big family here -- told her why people were staring. Her boyfriend was one of the cops involved in a wild racist fracas over the weekend. One cop had beaten and shoved a bathroom plunger up a suspect's rectum. "They say Justin did it," the cop said.

She hopes it is a lie. Because if the terrible tale of torture that has people referring to the 70th, where she's worked for four years, as The Plunger Precinct is true, Susan has been planning to marry a lie.

"Justin wouldn't do this to our life," Susan said yesterday as we talked over coffee. "If it happened, he didn't do it."

Justin Volpe's hair is longer in Susan's picture than in the NYPD's official photograph. But he looks exactly as Abner Louima, a 30-year-old Haitian immigrant, described Volpe to me from a hospital bed last week maybe a little hipper, a little better looking.

"We want to be married, still," she said. They have been living together for most of the last two years, and were planning a big wedding.

Susan lives in Brooklyn. She wanted to meet and talk. She doesn't want her last name printed. She is concerned about her family. Many of them live in Brooklyn.

Her lover is a suspect in the most atrocious police torture case in 20 years, and his relationship with an intelligent black woman is confusing.

"Justin a racist? Impossible," she said, answering her own question.

"What color were our children going to be? It's like Justin tells the guys in the station, 'Susan isn't my black girlfriend. She is my girlfriend, period.'"

"I know. I know," she said, shaking her head. "On one hand, in the Seven-O, we are fighting racists who don't want to see a white man and a black woman together. But in the same precinct, he is accused of this.

"I see the looks the cops give me in the precinct. The black guys say to me, 'Has he brought you home to meet his parents? It's just sex, nothing will come of it.'"

She folded her hands and looked into space. Her courage in defending a lover accused of such an atrocity is humbling. From what I've learned, her family and his family cherish each other which makes all this, especially if Volpe is guilty, even sadder.

"Justin has been reluctant for me to come forward," she continued.

"I can't imagine being married to . . .

"It's hard to digest or even understand. Black people will say, 'How can you stand by him and believe he is innocent.' But my family said, 'We are with you. Stand by him.'"

I had to say it: "This is like the cliche, 'I can't be a racist. Some of my best friends are black.'"

"I know," she said, biting her lip. "But I know he is not an evil person. His life with me would have to be a lie. We are planning on getting married and having children. If Justin Volpe did this, he did it to me and his children."

Maybe he snapped.

"I have been to his house many times," she said. "His father, Robert, and Justin's mother treat me like their daughter. His father has come to Brooklyn. We traveled to see my family in Virginia. We stayed with my sister and her kids for a week.

"I work days; Justin works nights. Our worlds revolve. Justin I liked because he is different. He makes me laugh. We are together always. Vacations in the Bahamas and the West Indies. You can't lead one life and then do that, in the precinct bathroom. Racism isn't some switch you can turn on and off."

Maybe Justin Volpe can. "I am an educated woman," she said. "In the police world -- at that precinct -- you have to be aware of racism. There was nothing from Justin. But the others, yes. That's why we were reluctant to make our relationship public. Then one year turned to two and we decided to get married. We had to be bigger than the precinct gossip."

If everyone in the precinct knew them, has the Internal Affairs Bureau contacted her?

"They haven't called me. Perhaps because I don't fit with the version of the monster they are building."

She would marry into a Staten Island cop family. Justin's father, Robert, is a world-class detective. Justin's brother is a cop, too.

"Justin's father was saying this morning, 'You spend your whole life on one side. And then one day you wake up and your son is Public Enemy No. 1.' We are both crushed."

Because the man you love could be the most despised cop in the modern history of the NYPD?

"I asked him, and he says it didn't happen the way they're saying. He is not an evil man."

Susan is attractive and delicate with short hair. She is smaller and has a lighter complexion than Abner Louima does. On Sunday, after church, she wore a short black skirt and a white silk blouse. She had a diamond stud in each ear, a silver thumb ring on her right hand, a silver bracelet on her left wrist and an ankle bracelet under her stockings.

Do you know the cops named so far?

"Justin wasn't working with his regular partner that night," she said. "I know Charles Schwarz a little bit. I know Eric Turetzky. He is a new guy. I know them all, locked away in my room on the second floor. And the monster in the papers is not the man I want to marry."

This whole episode is confusing, especially emotionally. Abner Louima is compelling and didn't hesitate when he said he was violated and called "n----r" by a man who hoped to make a black woman his wife.

"We talked about racism many times. Cried about it at night. Where would we live? We talked about moving to Park Slope. I am from Coney Island. I went to Lafayette High School. We both know what the score is.

"I have seen him come home in the morning and struggle with the weight of being a police officer. Justin is depressed a lot. The sadness of the streets takes its toll."

But it is very possible that this man she loves so much stuck a toilet plunger up the rectum of a human being, nearly ruining the man.

If Justin Volpe is convicted, he will have violated Susan, too.

"Our first date? We went to Caliente Cab [Co.] in Greenwich Village," she said, suddenly warm with the memory. "We went to a place called the Shark Bar on Amsterdam Ave. later. He isn't much of a drinker. We're not club people, really. We were headed for a nice life. And then, this."

You think of Volpe and Abner Louima lying in bed in Coney Island Hospital keeps popping into your head.

He said a cop, who was calling him a n----r, told him that the blacks in the precinct wouldn't help him, that "all they do is make photocopies."

One of Susan's responsibilities is to make photocopies.

Did you ever hear Volpe say anything about David Dinkins or Rudy Giuliani?

"Never. He is not a political person. The thing about it being Giuliani's time is silly." And then she brought a hand to her tear-streaked face.

"We thought it was our time," she said.

Commentary 1998