Drunken off-duty NYPD cop allowed to do yoga as part of punishment

A vacationing NYPD cop who got “belligerent” with officers in California after drunkenly wandering onto a highway dodged possibly being fired — and instead was allowed to do yoga as part of her punishment.

The behind-the-scenes deal was new NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell’s first act of leniency involving departmental discipline.

Off-duty Harlem cop Catherine Lamonica, 38, was at dinner with two friends in San Francisco on April 10, 2021, when she ditched her pals to continue on to a nearby bar, according to NYPD disciplinary documents obtained through the state Freedom of Information Law.

About an hour later, Lamonica called her friends and told them she was heading back to their hotel. She turned off her phone when she started walking because it was at 1 percent battery life, the documents say.

It isn’t clear how far Lamonica walked, but after about an hour, she turned on her phone again for directions to the hotel — and the device allegedly sent her straight onto Interstate 80, according to the papers.

Multiple people called 911 reporting that “a female was walking in the freeway,” and, when California Highway Patrol responded to the scene, they found the officer “standing in the median center divider looking over the railing by the concrete,” the records say.

“Officers removed Office Lamonica, place[d] her in handcuffs for everyone’s safety, placed her in their police vehicle and transported Officer Lamonica to their headquarters,” documents say.

If the department decided that Lamonica’s false claim of excessive force was an aggravating factor in her case, she could have faced termination.

Once in custody, Lamonica “refused to comply with the Officers[sic] request allowing them to speak to the NYPD Supervisor while on the phone, because she wanted to make the notification to her command and operations first,” the records say.

The Big Apple cop was “belligerent, argumentative and discourteous” to the Highway Patrol officers — and when reporting her arrest to her NYPD supervisor, she accused the California cops of assaulting her, according to records.

Lamonica later admitted the officers acted “reasonably” because an intoxicated pedestrian on the freeway created a “dangerous situation for everyone,” the documents say.

The West Coast cops then took Lamonica to San Francisco General “because [she] was intoxicated, could not care for herself.”

The trio of California charges filed against Lamonica — for public intoxication, pedestrian prohibited on restricted freeways and failure to obey signs — were eventually dropped by a local assistant district attorney because her “office doesn’t file infractions,” the NYPD’s internal records say. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office did not respond to questions as to why the raps were dropped.

California Highway Patrol said it could not provide more information to The Post. 

Lamonica was later able to cut a deal with the NYPD that allowed her to avoid an internal disciplinary trial — and possible termination, records show.

If the department decided that Lamonica’s false claim of excessive force was an aggravating factor in her case, she could have faced termination, according to the NYPD’s disciplinary matrix.

A general view of an NYPD arm patch in the Times Square section of New York, NY on August 7, 2021.
Catherine Lamonica was “belligerent, argumentative and discourteous” to the California Highway Patrol officers.
Christopher Sadowski

Instead, for admitting to being unfit for duty and being discourteous to the officers, Lamonica was docked the standard 30 vacation days, went to six weeks of counseling, volunteered with the department’s stress-management section — and did yoga with the department.

But NYPD regulations say she should have also been given a year of probation, in which she could be fired for a future misstep, as well as been required to undergo regular breath testing.

The deal was signed off on by Sewell in her first few weeks as the NYPD’s top cop.

“After reviewing the facts and circumstances of this matter, I have determined that the limited scope of the misconduct in this matter calls for a penalty less than the presumptive penalty provide in the Department’s Disciplinary System Penalty Guidelines,” Sewell wrote in a decision dated Feb. 18, noting Lamonia’s clean record and “commendable reviews.”

Under the department’s matrix, which was instituted by the previous administration to standardize punishment inside the NYPD, mitigating factors such as prior performance or history should not be considered for the charge of unfit for duty.

The details of Lamonica’s discipline were only made public because of the NYPD’s agreement with the Civilian Complaint Review Board to make public any deviation from its own disciplinary matrix in a letter from the commissioner with his or her justification.

Lamonica could not be reached for comment.

The NYPD did not immediately respond to requests.

The Police Benevolent Association, which represents the officer, did not comment.