Thursday, September 28, 2006

Double Jeopardy Trick" Convicts Former Correction Officer

Yonkers-Wednesday,September 27th – Police Commissioner Robert Taggart announced his resignation effective November 2nd. This action followed by six days THE WESTCHESTER GUARDIAN headline that had declared, "Mother72, Daughter 49, ChargeYonkers Police Brutality."

On Saturday, the 23rd, theYonkers Chapter of the NAACP, under its President Karen Edmonson,and long-time counsel Michael Sussman, conducted a" Speak Out" event at the Riverfront Library. In light of numerous recent complaints, the organizationhad invited all persons who had been victims of police brutality, at the hands of theYonkers Police Department, tocome forward and share their experiences. The event which began just before noon, ran for three hours, as nearly twenty individuals rose to share their horror stories with the more than one hundred residents gathered.

As one might expect, at a gathering organized by the NAACP,the majority of victims who came forward were Black. However, several Latino and Caucasian menand women rose to speak. Thefirst complainant, a young Blackman in his late twenties, a recovering addict, spoke of being approached near his own residence,to be accosted and severely beatenby several Yonkers Police Officers, suffering a broken arm and severely damaged knee. When asked by Attorney Sussman, "How long ago did this happen to you," he responded that it had been three years, and that he intended to take legal action against the police.Sussman explained that in all likelihood the 3-year statute of limitations had run out.

A middle-aged Black mother rose to describe what the Yonkers Police had done to her son in January 2000, and again in September of 2001. With deep emotion in her voice, she declared," Twice the Police broke into my home and beat my son terrible."Her son was 35 at the time of the second incident. She explained that they went to Federal Court, but the charges against the police were dismissed, and her son was convicted of assaulting the officers.

Another middle-aged Black woman described how she had been with her 15-year-old grandson on Lawrence Street last year,when the police approached, put her in handcuffs and planted drugs on her grandson. She spoke of the terrible fear she andher neighbors all feel for the police, and their unwillingness to call them for help.
A well spoken young Black woman described how police came to her apartment at 47 Riverdale Avenue, and barged in. When she insisted that they produce a warrant she was told "We don’t need no fucken’ warrant."
Then they proceeded to bang her around and arrest her without probable cause.

There followed a Latina, in her mid-thirties, a ten-year employee of theYonkers Public School System who described how she and several ofher friends were recently accosted by Yonkers Police while they were not engaging in any unlawful activity whatsoever, She was roughed up along with six of her friends,and charged with Disorderly Conduct, and Obstruction of Governmental Administration, a misdemeanor. She was still very emotionally upset, and will be returning to City Court in Mid-October.

A Latino male, in his twenties, stood up next to his mother, who was obviously too emotionally scarred to speak, and described how theYonkers Police had come to his fathers auto repair business on New Main Street,and beat up his mother, tossing her to the ground, himself, and his father who tried to protect them. He showed several photographs of his mother’s injuries.

Several of the complainants described similar circumstances. Almost all had been taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital where staff routinely minimized their bruises and injuries, in medical reports, ostensibly to cover and protect the police.One man related that a close friend who works as a correction officer at the County Jail, told him, "Personnel at the jail can always identify persons who have been arrested in Yonkers because they are usually so badly bruised and beaten."

Attorneys Randolph McLaughlin and Debra Cohen were also present at the session, together with three Pace University Law students to sit with and gather information for possible forwarding to state, and federal authorities, and for possible criminal and civil litigation. Each speaker upon delivering their experience, proceeded to sit with the attorneys who took their particulars and offered legal advice as to their possible options.
It was clear that those who had come forward comprised a very small fraction of those individuals who have been brutalized by the Yonkers Police Department, in just the last few years. Given the trauma and the fear of most of the victims, it was a remarkably large turn out indeed; one which clearly highlighted the need for a federal investigation by the United States Department of Justice.

It is not altogether surprising to those who have been close to the criminal justice system and the courts of Westchester over many years, that there has been an ever increasing spateof unlawful and violent behavior within a number of police departments given the fact that the Chief Law Enforcement Officer, for twelve years, up until nine months ago, was DA Jeanine Pirro, a woman whose personal and professional conduct has always confirmed her belief that she is above the Law. Clearly, one who would enforce the Law must live by it.

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