An off-duty city police officer was arrested after being accused of punching a cabdriver in the face on the East Side, the police said.
The officer, Sidney Garcia, 42, was charged with third-degree assault on Friday evening, several hours after the driver of a yellow taxicab reported that he had been assaulted during an argument with five people late Thursday.
Officer Garcia was stripped of his gun and badge, and was suspended without pay for 30 days, as detectives from the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Police Department began an inquiry.
Appointed to the force on Feb. 28, 1994, Officer Garcia is currently assigned to the department’s Applicant Processing Division, where he handles the submissions of candidates to become police officers.
According to the police, Officer Garcia was with four other people on Thursday night when they tried to hail a cab at Third Avenue and 35th Street about 11:20 p.m. When a taxi pulled over, the officer and the others tried to get in.
“The cabby said no,” said a law enforcement official, adding that the driver apparently felt that having five passengers would violate the rules of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Words were exchanged as the five people got into the taxi, with Officer Garcia in front, the police said.
“Then, the off-duty cop allegedly hits” the driver in the face, said the official, who requested anonymity because the investigation was continuing.
The cabby drove away after the encounter. It was not until finishing his shift and returning to his garage, about 3:30 a.m., that he came across Officer Garcia’s ID card and shield inside the vehicle, law enforcement officials said. He then contacted the police.
The extent of the driver’s injuries, if any, was not immediately clear, and the police did not identify the driver by name.
Officer Garcia was arrested about 5:30 p.m. on Friday, the police said.
“Our rules restrict the number of passengers to the number of seat belts available,” Allan J. Fromberg, a spokesman for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, said.
“The number of authorized passengers would go on the rate card that’s in the vehicle, the card that goes next to the driver’s license,” Mr. Fromberg said, adding that the agency did not keep “crime stats” on events like assaults against drivers. He declined to comment on what led to Officer Garcia’s arrest.
The police would not say if Officer Garcia had previously faced disciplinary action in the course of his 16-year career.
Since 1984, on average, more than 100 police officers a year have been arrested.