WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A group of community organizations led by the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform gathered in White Plains Friday afternoon to demand more oversight and accountability to prevent cases of police misconduct in Westchester County.
The rally also included members of local NAACP chapters, Westchester RISE, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, the Westchester Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute for Nonviolence, and local churches. The rally was held to speak out against uses of excessive and deadly force by police and to institute ways to hold officers, management and district attorneys accountable. Recent cases cited in the event included the shooting of Pace University student DJ Henry in Mount Pleasant, the shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain of White Plains, the death of Samuel Cruz in New Rochelle and the death of Irma Marquez in Yonkers.
“Failing to establish a system of accountability allows a uniform to become legitimized as a symbol of violence. We cannot allow this to happen.,” said Guisela Marroquin, a community organizer for the Lower Hudson Valley Civil Liberties Union. “If we are to break the patterns that allow power and privilege to victimize our families, neighbors, and friends, we must demand change from those who are hired to keep us safe.”
Stephen Glusker of WESPAC said that the goals of the movement are to establish independent oversight structures to review police practices and investigate potential misconduct, implement protocols in departments to address the use of force, reform training programs to emphasize nonviolence and increase the hiring and promotion of African American and Latino officers.
“The Westchester district attorney has failed to indict police officers for misconduct. An independent body of special prosecutors needs to be created to investigate and impose sanctions when local and county officials fail to act,” Glusker said.
Tom Kissner, a former police officer and former president of the Port Chester-Rye NAACP, said that police officers must be trained to act wisely and to disregard any stereotypes or personal insults when dealing with the public. “A police officer, someone who has been selected to have the awesome power to take human life should the circumstances require it, also must have awesome responsibilities,” Kissner said.
“We’re looking at millions of our tax dollars being spent unnecessarily when they can just properly train these officers and hold them accountable,” said Damon Jones of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. He encouraged people to reach out to elected officials and demand change. “It cannot be politics as usual anymore. People are dying.”