NYPD officer known for intimidating activists served at Abu Ghraib torture prison in Iraq – report

Guards stand guard at a gate in the Baghdad Central Prison in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib. © Mohammed Ameen
A New York Police Department Deputy Inspector served in the US Army military command in Iraqi at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison at the same time human rights abuses were being committed there, an investigation by the Gothamist discovered.

The officer has a reputation for using aggressive tactics against street protesters.

Deputy Inspector Andrew J. Lombardo is well known to New York activists for his seemingly arbitrary arrests and intense questioning techniques, but what they may not know was that he was part of the military chain of command at Abu Ghraib.

The Gothamist discovered a US Army Reserve Facebook post from 2011, which referenced NYPD Captain Andrew J. Lombardo (his rank before his promotion) and featured the following caption:

Honoring the Legacy of those lost – ‘The events of 9/11 inspired me to try out for & serve as a lieutenant in the NYPD Emergency Service Unit.’ Army Reserve CSM & now NYPD Captain Andrew Lombardo is a true ‘Warrior Citizen’– Tomorrow he, & members of the 800th MP BDE will represent the US Army at the Ground Zero ceremony in NYC.”

Lombardo’s name appears alongside the name of the same brigade in report on an internal investigation of Abu Ghraib conducted by Major General Antonio Taguba in May 2004 that looked into the scandal. It verified that Lombardo was part of the military chain of command during the time atrocities were being carried out at the prison.

In March 2003 during the Iraq war, the US Army and CIA committed a series of human rights violations against detainees being held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The violations included physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy and murder. The abuses came to light in late 2003 via reports by Amnesty International and the Associated Press.

The scandal received widespread condemnation, particularly after shocking photographs taken inside the prison were circulated. They featured pictures of prisoners draped in hoods and collared with leashes, held in stressful positions, piled up naked in a human pyramid, and kneeling on all fours on a dog leash.

Lombardo and others who served in the 800th Military Police Battalion were not accused of wrongdoing in the Taguba Report, but 11 other military officers were accused of violations including “sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses inflicted on several [13] detainees.”

The Gothamist connects such experiences, and the exposure to torture and sadism, with the increasing militarization of local police departments and the potential threat they might pose to First Amendment activity.

“Overall, it is not a good idea to put someone who has cut their teeth in the military in a position where they are policing a potentially volatile situation like a protest,” Dr. Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University and expert on the militarization of police, told the website. “It can cause them to use tactics that are not accepted in democratic policing.”

The Gothamist also discovered that Lombardo is supervising the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group. When NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton first announced the creation of the unit in January, he described it as a group of roving officers that would be armed with machine guns and assigned to terrorist threats and protests.

After the announcement was met with public outcry, the NYPD revised Bratton’s statement and said the machine guns would be left in vehicles, and only assigned to units dealing with protests and crowd control.

The Strategic Response Group is partly funded by the US Department of Homeland Security.