Chamberlain Jr: Suspend Officers in Father's Death

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Community members packed White Plains City Hall for Monday's meeting to address the common council about the Kenneth Chamberlain shooting. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. addressed the White Plains Common Council at its meeting Monday to let them know, "I'm still here and I'm not going anywhere until I get justice for my father." Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The White Plains Common Council voted to authorize the funding of an outside, independent review of the city's police department in response to the Kenneth Chamberlain shooting at its standing room only meeting Monday night.

For Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., whose family lawyers are pursuing a criminal investigation with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, it isn't enough. 

"I'm asking that you strongly recommend" to Public Safety Commissioner David Chong "that any and all officers named at this point and time be suspended pending the outcome of this federal investigation," Chamberlain Jr. told the common council Monday. 

Like Chamberlain Jr., several community members voiced their displeasure with a Westchester County grand jury's decision not to indict the officers involved in the Nov. 19, 2011, incident at Monday's meeting, which packed many more residents and television cameras into the courtroom. The grand jury did not find reasonable cause for an indictment.

Chamberlain Sr., 68, was shot by police officer Anthony Carelli after police responded to a medical alert from Life Aid that he accidentally triggered in the early morning hours of Nov. 19. During the hour-long standoff at his 135 South Lexington Ave. apartment, Chamberlain Sr. refused to open his door to allow police to verify his condition.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said it will review the evidence in the case, according to its website.

Lawyers for the Chamberlain family said audio recordings from the medical alert system, used as evidence in the grand jury investigation, capture a white officer, published reports identify as Steven Hart, using a racial slur. 

Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore, said the officer intended to distract Chamberlain with the use of the N-word, a tactic she condemned, according to published reports. 

The young Chamberlain took issue with that. He said when he listened to the audio recordings and heard the N-word, "that’s not to distract, that was in fact to antagonize and provoke him," he said. "The use of offensive terms by a member of your neighborhood conditions unit strongly suggests the existence of a biased mentality. The lack of a criminal indictment also sends a message to the minorities of this city that their lives are worthless."

Michael Hannon, a White Plains police officer, also accused the city of using bias in a civil lawsuit he filed against the city and White Plains Assistant Police Chief Anne FitzSimmons. Hannon claims in the lawsuit that FitzSimmons threw a chair at him, which struck the back of his chair Sept. 22 of last year, causing spinal injuries.

The Westchester District Attorney's Office declined prosecution and an internal investigation revealed no wrongdoing.

Hannon asked the mayor and his common council to "make things right" by taking disciplinary action against FitzSimmons.

The matter has been referred to the city attorney, Mayor Thomas Roach said. The panel set to review the police department will report directly to Roach and then will be made public. 

"As with anything else we do in this city, we're always looking for ways to do it better," Roach said. "And when you have a tragedy such as we suffered, I think it's important that we take a look at everything and do everything we can."

The panel will be chaired by Dr. Maria R. Haberfeld, professor and chair of the department of law, police science and criminal justice administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an internationally recognized expert in police policy and procedure, Roach said in a May 2 statement.

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