Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Tired Of City Hall Denials And Inaction, Victims Of Yonkers Police Brutality Send Amicone Packing

Saturday afternoon, September 29th, Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone found out, the hard way, what
victims of police brutality, be they Black, White, Latino, or other, felt about his, and his police commissioner’s,
failure to acknowledge and deal with numerous unresolved cases of police brutality. Making an
unscheduled appearance at the Riverfront Public Library, before nearly 200 victims and community spokespersons, the second ‘speak-out’ event at the site in a year, Amicone attempted to tell the assemblage that
his administration “does not ignore police brutality complaints.” That remark was immediately responded
to by a local business operator, who yelled, “We don’t believe you.” There then followed shouts and taunts from
several in the audience as the Mayor beat a hasty retreat from the auditorium, obviously humiliated.

The gathering had been organized by Katrina Phillips, assistant to Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, brought into Yonkers by Karen Edmonson, President of the Yonkers Chapter of the NAACP, back in July, when it became obvious to her that conversations with Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett “were
going nowhere.” Saturday’s forum was intended to accomplish what was not accomplished when the July event, scheduled at the Messiah Baptist Church on Warburton Avenue, was cancelled because of City Hall warnings to the pastor that violence and street clashes might result from the event.

Showing up briefly in July at the African-American Festival that followed the cancelled church event, Sharpton correctly observed that Yonkers Police brutality was “a problem not targeting only the minority community.” He ordered figures demonstrating that nearly fifty percent of complaints over the previous year had come from White complainants.

Mayor Amicone and Edmund Hartnett, his appointed Police Commissioner, had been put on notice a year ago, when the jolting frontpage headline of the September 21st edition of e Westchester Guardian read “Mother 72, Daughter 49, Charge Yonkers Police Brutality.”

The article detailed how Tina and Mary Bostwick, lifelong residents of Yonkers, had been badly mistreated
by Yonkers Police. Mary, the daughter, was roughed-up and arrested by a police officer with a reputation for
violent conduct, after summoning help for a severely injured youth who had been beaten by their neighbor.

Then, six days after the article hit the street, Police Commissioner Robert Taggart mysteriously resigned after forty years on the job. Following that article, literally scores of individuals, previously too frightened and intimidated to speak up, began coming forward. Their cases were detailed and documented. By not responding,
for the most part, and, in fact, stiff-arming the press and denying the longstanding pervasive problem, Amicone and Hartnett have lost the confideence of the community, particularly the City’s African-American community. At the same time they have caused the Federal Government, the Justice Department, through the United States
Attorney’s Office, to open an investigation into the matter, as it is obvious that City Hall has no serious intention of acknowledging the long-standing and pervasive police brutality problem, much less dealing with it.

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