Family and members of the police, military, clergy and White Plains Community packed the White Plains Common Council chambers Monday night asking for accountability and oversight in the White Plains Police Bureau.
“We are appalled and horrified with what appears to be no action taken on behalf of the White Plains Common Council and Police Commissioner David Chong to seek justice,” said Rev. Odinga Lawrence Maddox of Mt. Hope A.M.E. Zion Church, at the meeting on behalf of the Ministers Fellowship Council of White Plains.
Most who attended the “Citizens to be Heard” portion of meeting were there supporting the family of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.—who was shot and killed by White Plains Police on Nov. 19—and White Plains Officer Michael Hannon—who alleges that Assistant Police Chief Anne FitzSimmons assaulted and impaired him.
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. is asking that all of the officers who responded to his 68-year-old father’s apartment at 135 S. Lexington that night be suspended pending the outcome of a federal investigation.
The Chamberlain family and lawyers said that Chamberlain, a heart patient, accidently set off his medical alert device and was harassed and taunted by police who responded to the call. They said police had no right to force their way into his apartment, since Chamberlain repeatedly told police that he was fine and didn’t need assistance.
They said the actions of the police is what caused Chamberlain to become upset, and lead to his eventual death.
Police said that they’ve visited Chamberlain’s apartment before and knew he was emotionally disturbed and had a criminal background. They said they weren’t sure if there was anyone else in the apartment, and had to make sure that all was well in the apartment before they left.
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Once police attempted to break into the apartment, officers reported that Chamberlain threatened them verbally and with various knives causing police to use a Taser on him, then fire four bean bag rounds on him, which they said had no effect on him. According to police reports, Carelli was forced to fatally shot Chamberlain because he was coming at another officer with a knife.
Commissioner David Chong said Tuesday that all of the officers’ actions are being investigated administratively.
Officer Anthony Carelli—who fatally shot Chamberlain—and Officer Steven Hart—who is accused of calling Chamberlain the n-word—are on modified desk assignment duty for the time being, where they are accused of police brutality in incidents that allegedly also involve race.
that there is a pattern of abuse and racial discrimination in White Plains, to which Chong responded, “This department has a very good history of having a good relationship with the community and that has proved through our crime statistics and the low crime quality of life.”
Westchester County District Attorney that there was no reason to indict city police in the shooting.
“The grand jury has spoken and we thank them for their due diligence,” said Chong. “Now it’s on me to do an administrative investigation.”
Chong has said the administrative investigation will include a review of the officers and their actions, as well as a look at police policies and procedures—including how they deal with mentally disturbed individuals.
The . The Chamberlain family said they also plan to file a federal civil rights wrongful death suit against the City of White Plains.
“The use of offensive terms by the neighborhood conditions unit, strongly suggest the existence of a bias mentality,” said Chamberlain Jr., at the meeting. “The lack of a criminal indictment also sends a message to the minorities of this city that their lives are worthless.”
DiFiore confirmed that officers used a racial slur during their encounter with Chamberlain—and according to The Daily News, said it was used as a tactic to distract Chamberlain.
Damon Jones, a New York representative for Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, said that the police department was in violation of its own policy in both the Chamberlain and Hannon incidents with the use of racial slurs, and lack of an internal investigation into FitzSimmons’ alleged actions and the use of violent behavior (see the attached PDF provided by Jones).
“You can’t expect the officers to act professionally with citizens and taxpayers in White Plains if the management of the police department is not setting a good example,” said Jones “They’re not following their own policy on how an officer should behave in the White Plains Police Department, so what do we expect if there is no accountability.”
Click on the video to hear Hannon’s account of the incident. He currently has a pending lawsuit against the city. Chong said the incident with FitzSimmons is a personell mater that the department is investigating, and will make a decision in that incident.
Jones, a correctional officer, also mentioned that in his 23 years of law enforcement he has disarmed many individuals who were in better health than Chamberlain and who had weapons, without having to take their lives.
The director for Occupy Marines, which represents 30,000 former and current U.S. Marines, Hairo Gonzalez, a.k.a. HyDro the People’s Hero, also spoke at the meeting saying, “Myself and the rest of the Marines, we demand justice—and we ain’t playin’.”
Others said they would like to see justice so that White Plains can heal from this tragic ordeal.
“We’re concerned about the soul of our city,” said Pastor Edward Williamson of . “We are being known as the place where the police shooting took place—and that’s not the image I would like for us to have as a city. That’s not the image we would like for our children to have, our youth who we want to cooperate and not fear police officers—but work with them as partners in the community.”
The White Plains Common Council approved the commissioning of the White Plains Police Department, the incident, police actions, procedures and policies.
“We want a conclusion here of what happened, not just for the family involved, not for the police officers involved—but for the whole community,” said Roach. “And I can tell you now, the type of language you are talking about is unacceptable to be said by anybody who works for this city, but it’s got to go through its process.”