WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. shooting by a White Plains police officer on Nov. 19 has been a high-profile affair, and Thursday a small group of Westchester residents sat in a circle at Mount Hope AME Zion Church to talk police accountability.
The Network for Police Accountability was formed in February in response to the Chamberlain shooting, which family lawyers, present at the meeting, claim was the latest example of police misconduct.
"The goal of this group is to build trust between the police and the communities while holding them accountable for their actions," said Julie Carran, communications coordinator for the group and co-chair of the Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for Nonviolence.
Carran said she gets the information out there, but relies on the professionals taking part, such as lawyers for Chamberlain's family, and groups such as Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, to steer the agenda.
Chamberlain family lawyer Wali Muhammad updated the group on the $21 million federal lawsuit they filed against White Plains, its police department, housing authority and eight police officers involved in the Chamberlain incident. While he said they couldn't discuss the content of a recent meeting between the Chamberlain family and the U.S. Attorney investigating the case, Muhammad said they expect it to go to trial in early January.
Public Safety Commissioner David Chong of the White Plains Police Department said it will cooperate fully with the investigation.
Damon Jones, head of the Westchester chapter of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, said his organization has been working with legislators to get legislation drafted at the county, state and federal level to create a civilian complaint review board.
Jones, of White Plains, encouraged members to sign a petition to support legislation in the state Senate to create an inspector general’s position to oversee the New York Police Department (NYPD). However, state Sen. Kevin Parker — who sponsored the bills, S6407A and S6695 — said he would look into expanding the position to oversee police departments statewide, Jones said. Whoever is appointed to this position would act as a “special state-level prosecutor to handle investigations and, if necessary, prosecute these cases,” according to the petition.
The Rev. Dr. Willie Hodge, of White Plains, attended his first Network for Police Accountability meeting Thursday, and suggested the group make more of an effort to go into the community and mobilize people behind their initiatives.