Though the family of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. is thankful White Plains is holding an officer accountable in the fatal shooting incident of the 68-year-old, they are looking for stronger measures to be taken.
“It’s a step in the right direction, although it’s been nine months,” said the former Marine’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.
The White Plains Public Safety Department announced Tuesday that Officer Steven Hart was suspended without out pay, pending an investigation into alleged misconduct on Nov. 19 at 135 S. Lexington Ave. where Chamberlain was shot by White Plains Police responding to Chamberlain’s medical alert device.
Hart allegedly called Chamberlain the “n-word” during the incident.
Before Hart’s suspension, he and Officer Anthony Carelli, who fatally shot Chamberlain, were assigned to modified desk duty. Both officers are currently involved in separate lawsuits that allege police brutality and racism.
Hart has until July 30 to respond to the charges, which were not specified in a press release from the White Plains Department of Public Safety. The release stated that the department would not make further comments on the issue.
“Once again the City of White Plains believes they can shroud this case in cone of silence,” said Chamberlain family lawyer Randolph McLaughlin, with Newman Ferrara LLP. “We don’t know what they charges are. It’s a mystery.”
McLaughlin said he hopes this isn’t the end of the City’s investigation into the behavior of its officers and procedures.
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“If it is within the guidelines and practices of the White Plains Police Department to breakdown someone’s door when responding to a medical alert that has been canceled, then shoot them with a Taser, beanbags and ultimately kill them—then they have some serious explaining to do,” McLaughlin said.
The City has vowed to form an independent panel to investigate the incident and police procedures. Chamberlain family lawyers say they haven't heard from the City regardig this investigation.
The Chamberlain family recently filed a $21 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of White Plains, White Plains Police Department, White Plains Housing Authority and eight city police officers. They are also currently awaiting a response from the U.S. District Attorney’s office that is investigating the incident. A Westchester grand jury failed to incite city police in the incident earlier this year.
“Any full and fair investigation will lead to a panoply of charges and suspension and firings of those officers who took those actions, which we believe not only violated the law but the constitutional rights of the man they killed that day,” said McLaughlin.
Mayo Bartlett, another lawyer for the Chamberlain family, said supporters for the Chamberlain family and the Network for Police Accountability—a grassroots group of community organizations formed after the shooting—is taking a proactive approach to ending police brutality and misconduct.
“We’re going to be engaging in efforts to educate people, to advocate for better training for law enforcement and strengthen the community response in terms of monitoring what happens in the community,” said Bartlett, who is with Young & Bartlett LLP. “If people observe misconduct, they should be able to record that information, and send it to a suppository where we would have a database of that information.”
Chamberlain Jr. said he is going to start an organization in his father’s name that would educate individuals on police interaction in the community, police interaction with youth, knowing what to do when approached by a police officer and knowing your rights, senior wellness, employment training, victim assistance and other community resources.
“It’s not just about justice for Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.,” said Chamberlain. “It’s bigger than that. I’m trying to take a negative and turn it into a positive.”