The local police union is questioning why the White Plains Public Safety Department suddenly decided to reveal internal disciplinary measures placed on an officer involved in the Nov. 19 incident that ended with the death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.
“I find it peculiar that the City would release information about disciplinary charges to the media when information about internal discipline has never been released before,” said White Plains Police Benevolent Association President Rob Riley in a statement.
The White Plains Public Safety Department announced Tuesday that Officer Steven Hart was served with disciplinary measures, and suspended without pay. Hart is accused of allegedly calling Chamberlain the “n-word” while police were responding to a call from Chamberlain’s medical alert device.
White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong told Patch in May that Hart and Officer Anthony Carelli, who fatally shot Chamberlain, were assigned to . Both officers are currently involved in separate lawsuits that allege police brutality and racism.
Lawyers for the Chamberlain family say that the 68-year-old retired Marine accidentally set off his medical alert device and that the medical alert company even canceled the alert. Chamberlain repeatedly told police he did not need assistance when they arrived, and refused to let them into his home.
Police say they’ve been to Chamberlain’s apartment before and were aware of his criminal history and believed him to be mentally disturbed. Police said they forced their way into Chamberlain’s apartment because they had to make sure he was OK and that there wasn’t anyone else in the apartment—as Chamberlain, who was legally intoxicated at the time, was talking to a woman and Barack Obama.
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When police broke into the apartment they said that Chamberlain tried to attack them with knives and that a Taser, and two beanbag rounds could not subdue the heart patient. Police said they were forced to fatally shoot Chamberlain in order to prevent him from stabbing an officer.
The U.S. District Attorney’s office announced that it would investigate the incident after a Westchester grand jury failed to indict White Plains Police in the shooting. 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.
Hart has until July 30 to respond to the charges. A press release from the White Plains Department of Public Safety did not specify what the exact charges were, and said that the department would not make and further comments on the matter.
The press release did say that Hart is entitled to a hearing and if found guilty, his punishment could range from a reprimand to dismissal from the police bureau.
Riley said he continues to support the eight officers involved in the incident, which he described as a “tragedy.”
Click here for all of our coverage on the Chamberlain incident.