A third-party review of the White Plains police department has deemed the shooting death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. "totally justified".
White Plains police officer Anthony Carelli shot Chamberlain Sr. while police responded to an early morning medical call from Chamberlain's apartment on Nov. 19, 2011. The shooting garnered national attention, with some claiming police used excessive force.
None of the officers involved in the shooting were indicted on criminal charges, but the Chamberlain family has filed a $21 million civil rights lawsuit in federal court.
Dr. Maria Haberfeld, a chair of the department of law and political science at the City University of New York at John Jay College, led the four-month review of the department in the wake of the shooting. Haberfield was contracted by the City of White Plains in May to provide an assessment of the police department. The 83-page report (which is attached to this article) was released Wednesday afternoon.
Professor Michael Walker, one of the committee members, analyzed the use of force in the Chamberlain Sr. case. In the report, Walker states "the shooting of Mr. Chamberlain was totally justified and took place only after negotiations and all non-lethal means were unsuccessful and Mr. Chamberlain came at a police sergeant with a knife."
Walker, who has taught police use of force academics throughout northern New Jersey and is a former police director for the City of Paterson, NJ, said Chamberlain made violent threats, including one threat where Chamberlain Sr. threatened to kill anyone who entered the apartment.
After officers were able to crack open Chamberlain Sr.'s apartment door the morning of the shooting, Walker said Chamberlain struck at officers through the crack with a meat cleaver.
Once police entered the apartment, at about 6:30 a.m., officers shot beanbags and taser rounds at Chamberlain Sr. Chamberlain Sr. was charging at officers while gripping a butcher's knife when Carelli fired two shots, one of which went through Chamberlain Sr.'s arm and into his chest, killing him, read Walker's report.
Although there is audio and video capturing some of the police interaction with Chamberlain Sr. leading up to the shooting, the shooting itself was not taped, according to court records.
Walked made his evaluation after analyzing nearly 200 pages of documents as well as crime scene photos, audio and video clips, according to the report.
After analyzing the Chamberlain Sr. incident, Walker recommended that police purchase additional equipment, including cameras that can be slipped beneath doors and to ensure that a hydraulic ram enabling the breach of doors be available at all times to members of the White Plains Fire and Police Departments.
When reached for comment, Randolph McLaughlin, one of the attorney's representing the Chamberlain family in a federal lawsuit, said the contents of the report were no surprise.
"They got what they paid for," said McLaughlin. "They hired folks to basically verify that what they did was correct."
McLaughlin said he intends to hire experts of his own who will dispute much of the report. He added that the third-party review doesn't offer an unbiased opinion of the case.
"It's not an independent review, this is a paid for review," he said. "Did I expect that the experts that they hired and paid for would come to any other conclusion than the conclusion they did come to? Not really."
According to McLaughlin, the review also offers no new factual information about the morning of the shooting and will have no impact on the federal case moving forward.
The City of White Plains, White Plains Housing Authority and several members of the White Plains Police Department as listed as defendants in the Chamberlain family's federal lawsuit.
"It will not in any way deter or stop this case from going forward," McLaughlin said.
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore announced the third-party review of procedures and training within the White Plains Police Department in July.
Haberfield worked with a committee of four academics and former law enforcement officials for four months to create the report. It contains an overview and analysis of the department based on four months of site visits, interviews with police personnel and an examination of police policies and procedures.
The report analyzes, in detail, the recruitment, training, operational procedures and other aspects of the department.
White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach thanked Haberfiend and her committee for the report, adding that several of the recommendations in the report have either already been implemented or are under consideration.
“The report that we have received provides an in-depth review of all aspects of the department, including training, policies procedures," Roach said. "The recommendations are thoughtful, informative and valuable."