An NYPD detective was arrested Sunday following a string of public lewdness complaints in Rockville Centre in which victims described a man masturbating on their respective properties.
Village of Rockville Centre police arrested 46-year-old Robert Francis of Queens after receiving a call about a suspicion person. He was charged with multiple counts of public lewdness and trespassing. He was released on a desk appearance ticket and is scheduled to be arraigned April 17.
Rockville Centre Police Commissioner Charles Gennario said Francis was forthcoming and had indicated he was in the midst of personal struggles. Francis is married with children, Gennario said. Why Francis decided to commit the alleged acts in Rockville Centre remained unclear. The locations of the incidents were Lakeview Avenue, Seaman Avenue, Brompton Road and Sherman Avenue.
The commissioner said he was “shocked” the suspect is a detective, adding that his agency immediately notified Francis’ duty officer. The NYPD suspended Francis following his arrest.
“He did show remorse,” Gennario said.
Village police had been investigating at least four public lewdness complaints since February with similar descriptions. The incidents occurred on Feb. 5, twice on Feb. 27 and March 24, all between 8 and 9 p.m. Each incident fit a familiar pattern, with Francis allegedly entering a resident’s backyard, signaling attention by aiming his flashlight at a window, and then exposing himself in front of each victim, Gennario said.
All four victims were teenage girls attending Rockville Centre high school. Gennario said they did not appear to have been targeted.
Police had difficulty establishing a profile early on because the girls were “very fearful,” the commissioner said, adding that they’d avert their gaze instantly before seeking help, making it difficult to paint a portrait of the suspect. Gennario said the darkness, combined with each girl’s shocked reaction, contributed to the suspect initially being falsely identified as “probably white.” Francis is black.
Police identified a sex offender who had recently moved away from the village as a potential person of interest but he was eventually cleared.
In response to the strange acts, police increased both marked and unmarked patrols in the area.
Gennario defended the decision to issue Francis a desk appearance ticket rather than having the detective formally processed through the court system within days of his arrest. Francis is a 17-year veteran whose most recent post was in Brooklyn.
“We in no way gave him special treatment because he was a police officer,” he said.