Thursday, September 6, 2007

In Our Opinion...

It Shouldn’t Have Had To Come To This

We were gratified, but not at all surprised by word from the Justice Department last week, that it had commenced a “full-scale investigation” into persistent allegations of Yonkers Police brutality. For nearly a year since our cover story of September 21, 2006, Mother 72, Daughter 49, Charge Yonkers Police Brutality, we
have continued to cover attempts by the Yonkers chapter of the NAACP and other well-intentioned citizens, to work with the Yonkers Police Department in an effort to rein in an organization whose propensity for brutality is virtually legend throughout Westchester, and matched only by the level of official denial.

Phil Amicone and his newly-appointed Police Commissioner, Edmund Hartnett, during the year since our story surfaced and, some three dozen new complaints were filed, have pursued a policy of foot-dragging and denial.

All the while, a hardcore violent element, perhaps 12 or 15 officers, two percent of a 650-member police
force, continued to brutalize men, women, and teens, alike, sending many to area hospitals, some with life-threatening injuries. One young 21-year-old Portuguese-American man was pulled from his car in the Town of Greenburgh and beaten by four Yonkers police officers in civilian clothing. He required 59 stitches and five days
in the ICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital to survive, as all the while his parents and his attorney were barred from visiting him.

It’s well-known in law enforcement circles that the Yonkers Police have had a bad reputation for brutality for many years. At the County Jail, it’s been a not-so-funny standing joke that Correction Officers can always tell the detainees coming from Yonkers by how badly beaten and bruised they are upon arrival. And, while it is true
that minority residents are often more likely to experience police contact, nevertheless, the problem in Yonkers cannot truly be labeled as one of racial discrimination, as recently acknowledged by Al Sharpton. To the contrary, those complaining of police brutality come from every ethnic and social background.

Commissioner Hartnett, brought to the City by John Fleming, a discredited cop who worked with him in the 46th Precinct, The Bronx, apparently was hired not to resolve and put an end to the long-standing practice of brutality, but rather to cover up and deflect questions and concerns lodged by citizens and press alike. The
Guardian’s experience with him convinced us, many months ago, that he was hired to cover up and deny, deny, deny.

And, so it is, having attended the speak-out at Riverfront Library and other gatherings, witnessing horrific accounts of unprovoked violence against Yonkers residents by the very persons paid and entrusted to protect them, that we express our gratitude and gratification over the fact that the United States Justice Department has finally stepped up to the plate to conduct a full-scale investigation, and hopefully prosecute those responsible, thus bringing down the curtain on a long and disgraceful chapter in Yonkers Police Department history. Surely Mayor Amicone, Commissioner Hartnett, and yes, the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, have made it abundantly clear that their treatment of choice merely involved a broom and a carpet.

Finally, we would recommend that Federal investigators might do well to look into “Mother 72, Daughter 49,” Tina and Mary Bostwick, early on. Their case is virtually a road map, not only regarding police perpetrators, but also the practices of Yonkers judges, prosecutors, and City Hall-connected attorneys who protect rogue cops while re-victimizing the victims of police brutality. Theirs is a system of elevated charging, intimidation, and coercion, all aimed at avoiding exposure of police misconduct and violence while keeping a handle on their victims by way of ACD dispositions; a RICO-type enterprise on a surprisingly large scale that continues to
generate significant revenue for favored attorneys.

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