Report: Chamberlain Shooting 'Totally Justified'

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Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., 68, a former Marine, was shot Nov. 19, 2011, by White Plains police responding to his medical alert system.
Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., 68, a former Marine, was shot Nov. 19, 2011, by White Plains police responding to his medical alert system. Photo Credit: White Plains Department of Public Safety

This story was updated at 5 p.m. to include comment from Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. by a White Plains police officer was “totally justified,” according to an independent, 83-page analysis by four academics who examined the White Plains Police Department.

“Based on Prof. (Michael) Walker’s assessment of the documents presented to us, his law enforcement training and experience, it is his belief that the shooting of Mr. Chamberlain was totally justified and took place only after negotiations and all non-lethal means were unsuccessful and Mr. Chamberlain came at a police sergeant with a knife,” the report says.

Walker, an associate professor at Passaic Community College, teaches the use of force by police at academies throughout northern New Jersey and is a former director of the Paterson, N.J., Police Department, the report says.

Chamberlain, 68, was shot by Officer Anthony Carelli after police responded to a medical alert from Life Aid that Chamberlain had accidentally triggered around 5:30 a.m. Nov. 19, 2011. During an hour-long standoff at his apartment, Chamberlain refused to open his door to allow police to verify his condition.

The report says Chamberlain threatened to kill the officers multiple times, while holding a meat cleaver and then a butcher knife.

Once inside the room, “officers attempted to deploy a Taser to incapacitate Chamberlain, but only one dart lodged in him and the device was ineffective,” the report says. The first shot with “less-than-lethal bean bag rounds” was at Chamberlain's thigh and was meant to subdue him. The report says Chamberlain still clutched the butcher knife and “three more shots followed,” but were ineffective, leading to an officer firing two rounds “to stop Chamberlain.”

The four-person team that produced the report was led by Maria Haberfeld, chair of the Department of Law and Police Science at the City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It also included Robert Vodde, director of the School of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J., and a former police chief in Leonia, N.J.; and John DeCarlo from the University of New Haven, Conn., a former police chief in Branford, Conn.

The report was based on four months of research, including “site visits, interviews of police personnel, examination of the departmental policies and procedures,” and “a host of documents related to the organizational and operational structure of the department.”

The report found that the White Plains Police Department “is an extremely professional and well run police organization, a credit to its leadership and the leadership of the City of White Plains.”

“I was pleased to see that the White Plains Police Department was viewed positively by these criminal justice experts and I take the report’s recommendations seriously,” Mayor Thomas Roach said in a written statement. “I know that they will assist us in continuing to improve the Department, just as we look to continuously improve all of our departments and operations throughout City government.”

A specific recommendation given as a result of the Chamberlain incident was to purchase cameras “that can be slipped under the doors, in order to assess the gravity of given situations.” Other recommendations included “a partnership with one or more media outlets” in order “to increase its transparency and penetration of news to the public.” That could be in the form of a monthly cable television show or newspaper column, the report said.

In an email to The White Plains Daily Voice, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. called the report bogus and said that "it means nothing because the bottom line is that 'my father’s murder was preventable.'" 

"With that being said I am calling on all clergy all supporters all friends and the entire Winbrook Housing to stand with me as I once again go to the Common Council of the City of White Plains and demand justice for my father and to make it very clear that if they continue to respond to my family and the people of White Plains with such disrespect then they are not worthy of our vote and we will vote you out," said Chamberlain. 

Attached: Analysis of the White Plains Police Department (white_plains_police_department_analysis_-final.pdf)

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This is an amazingly inadequate report that completely glosses over the critical issues in the confrontation between Chamberlain and the police. The report devotes most of its attention to background issues in training, organization, resources and policies of the White Plains police department. The actual event at issue gets a brief recount on pages 35 and 36, that is mainly a restatement of the police officers' account. It states that there was a Life Station Medical Alert activation, but it never says that this was as error, or that Chamberlain had informed Life Station Medical Alert that it was an error, or that Life Station Medical Alert had accepted this statement.
It gives absolutely no reason why the police needed to see or talk to Chamberlain, given his statement that he did not need help.
The authors of the report should be embarrassed.

I just dont understand why trained police could not take charge of a 68 year old man.It does not compute....... I think the police are out of hand with their guns.My opinion,just sayin'God bless the Chamberlain family.

Sadly for the family, the report comes as a cold, hard look with the lens of criminology and not sociology. Surely there could have been some way to avoid this tragedy. May Mr. Chamberlain rest in peace.