By Matthew Taub
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief
Responding to continuing instances of police brutality leading to the injury and death of everyday residents, dozens of protestors gathered in front of the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building in Harlem Wednesday evening to call for Police Commissioner Bratton’s ouster.
“Offering ‘retraining’ for these officers minimizes the gravity of the problem,” said Danette Chavis, whose son died due to police conduct in 2004. The retraining she referenced is a response to the recent case of Eric Garner, who was killed in Staten Island while being subdued by an illegal chokehold by police officers.
“These officers should be criminality prosecuted with same swiftness that average citizen is arrested and prosecuted with a crime,” she said. “There’s never a delay of justice on our end. If there was a video of one of us doing something like this, you can bet there would be charges. The same fate should await these officers.”
The Answer Coalition, National Action Against Police Brutality, Copwatch Patrol Unit, Harlem Community Watch, NYS Blacks in Law Enforcement, Parents Against Police Brutality, Brothers and Sisters Who Care and a range of individual activists and concerned citizens organized the gathering. A significant police presence — both uniformed officers and community watch units — encircled those who gathered.
“The mayor has to own up to the fact he made a grave mistake in reappointing Bratton,” Chavis said.
The commissioner previously served in his position in the 1990s and is considered part of the inspiration for the “broken windows” theory of crime prevention, targeting minor offenses to improve the experience of city life.
Many residents support the policy, but recent events have shown how targeting minor offenses can lead to drastic consequences — Eric Garner, for example, was targeted for illegal selling individual cigarettes on a street corner, a relatively minor, non-violent offense.
At the same time, despite her call for Bratton’s ouster, Chavis held onto hope that the commissioner would make things right.
“The Commissioner need not wait — he can take action now to show he takes our concerns seriously,” she said.
But that would also mean an end to the practice of using chokeholds, already forbidden police procedure that was again used on a seven-months pregnant woman in East New York Saturday in a dispute over a barbecue.
Carlton Berkley, a retired NYPD detective who worked in the department for 20 years, advised that chokeholds were declared off-limits as early as 1984 when he first joined the force, spoke out on the recent violence. The bystanders’ video, photo and audio is the only reason officers are increasingly unable to fabricate a story to justify their conduct.
“Bratton is claiming that bystanders taping, recording and asking for badge numbers is making officers ‘excited,’” Berkley said. “Is he serious? Read your own policy. Onlookers have the right to observe, to ask for shield numbers, to take photos. You can bet that if there was no video of Eric Garner, they would have claimed he tried to swing at the officers.”
Berkley added that he voted for de Blasio in the last election and still wants to “give him a chance,” but that Bratton is “leaving black and Hispanic law enforcement out of the discussion, where they could lend valuable insight.”
Kirk Patrick, president of Harlem Community Watch, also spoke out about police violence.
“I’m tired of the cops beating up people. First it was 41 shots, then it was 50 shots,” Patrick said, referencing two previous police-related deaths, Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell. “Now it’s a chokehold. They’re lynching us. This has to stop now.”