Thursday, August 31, 2006

Janet Difiore.

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Yonkers Police Brutality


There is simply no justification for the excessive use of force by the Yonkers Police Department, or any other law enforcement agency in the County. Police brutality is a very corrosive, destructive activity that undermines public confidence, not only in public safety but in the entire judicial system. And, it only takes a few bad actors to give
an entire department an ugly reputation.

Police brutality sets in motion a cycle of events that unfortunately becomes self-perpetuating. Having grown up in the 41st Precinct of the South Bronx, during the years that the neighborhood earned the handle “Fort Apache,” I can state categorically that kids do not automatically hate the police. Even when so-called juvenile delinquency
had become epidemic, and the City of New York imposed an 8:00PM curfew, relations with the local police were not particularly strained.

That was then, and this is now. Today, with so many guns on the street in the wrong hands, and gang membership and violence in the County at an all-time high, police brutality is nothing short of a catalyst for violence. Residents of Yonkers, as well as towns and cities across Westchester, are entitled to assurances from police commissioners and precinct commanders that they will show zero tolerance for incidents of excessive physical force. More importantly, our District Attorney, Janet DiFiore, must publicly declare her intention to
prosecute any, and all, police officers who may engage in the use of brutality, to the fullest extent of the law.

Last week Jim Bostic, Executive Director of the Nepperhan Community Center, and Chairman of the Yonkers Violence and Gang Prevention Coalition, met with Yonkers Police Commissioner Robert Taggert, Deputy Commissioner Gardener, Captains Intervalo, and DiMaggio, as well as Lieutenants Reardon and Doyle, together with Karen Edmonson, President of the Yonkers NAACP, for preliminary discussion of the community’s concerns over several recent allegations of police brutality. Mr. Bostic described their conversation as productive.

However, it will take a concerted effort by top police officials, concerned citizens, and the DA’s Office, if the Yonkers Police Department, and other departments in the County, are to avoid a possible Federal Civil Rights Investigation into the matter. DA Janet DiFiore, more than any other individual, has the resources and the manpower, not to mention the mandate, to prevent the police brutality issue from coming to that point. Therefore, it is important that Ms. DiFiore step up to the plate and make a statement that will both reassure the residents of Yonkers and all of Westchester, and put those who would disgrace their uniforms on notice that they do so at great risk.

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