Yonkers: Dial 911 Then Run!
Thereâ€™s a major concern in Yonkers now that Rev. Sharpton is set to visit. Mayor Amicone and Commissioner Hartnett canâ€™t seem to control Yonkersâ€™ cops. There are no shortage of Black residents who complain of Black youth being falsely arrested; women being disrespected, being punched in the face and called "bitchesâ€? and â€œmonkey niggers."
Yonkers Police Brutality Series
At a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) meeting last Thursday, three more victims of Yonkers police brutality came forward.
“I live in Mt. Vernon and my father told me to come to Yonkers because my sister’s boyfriend had assaulted her. When the police arrived they surrounded me. I tried to tell them I was her brother, but they just started beating me,” Dedan Wilson, 33, told the hush gathering.
Dedan’s father, Bartlett Wilson, 56, who’s a veteran and completed two tours of duty in Vietnam, also spoke: “I just asked the police why were they beating on my son, and they turned on me like a pack of wolves.”
They were once proud Black men. Dedan now walk with the assistance of a cane, thanks to the kindly beating from officers of the Yonkers Police Department. The pair was arrested June 16th, and awaiting their day in court. A woman who spoke at the meeting complained about her son being falsely arrested and being held in Valhalla. All have filed formal complaints with the NAACP.
This extraordinary meeting for the community to air their grievances comes in the wake of a series of columns I wrote in The Black Star News over the past several weeks. In conversations with many Yonkers residents, male and female, they speak of routine beatings by officers of the Yonkers Police Department; and of being subjected to racist slurs by cops who drive by, or while asking them questions.
In the most shocking allegation repeated by dozens of men, whenever a cop car is seen driving out of town with young Black men in the back seats, everyone knows where the boys are being taken; not to a police precinct but by the river to be assaulted by cops. Yonkers is like the old Deep South, several Black men tell me.
At the special NAACP meeting last week, Karen Edmondson, Yonkers’ NAACP President who has been receiving countless police brutally complaints by telephone and walk-ins declared: “I’m going to be calling for an investigation into the Yonkers Police Department and the Justice Center as well.”
Katrina Phillips, one of Yonkers' concerned Citizens is being credited with blowing the lid off police brutality by the Yonkers PD. She now works with the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to bring further scrutiny on the abuses.
A community forum scheduled for later this month sparked Yonkers’ Mayor Phil Amicone and Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett to finally meet with Edmondson and Phillips this past Friday. There’s a major concern in Yonkers now that Rev. Sharpton is set to visit.
Mayor Amicone and Commissioner Hartnett can’t seem to control Yonkers’ cops. There are no shortage of Black residents who complain of Black youth being falsely arrested; women being disrespected, being punched in the face and called "bitches” and “monkey niggers." There are also complains that vehicles are being illegally written up with summonses. Yonkers cops routinely use profanity and racial slurs; it’s like breathing in oxygen, these Yonkers Citizens tell me.
When the Yonkers’ Justice Center adjudicates these police arrests, most cases end in favor of the YPD. Many Citizens say they can’t afford to fight back through the judicial system so they accept pleas. In almost every case the defendant is sentenced to jail time or community service; to put it better, community slavery.
As readers recall in a previous column “Justice Yonkers Style,” The Black Star exposed how the system failed a mother and son. Dara Massey and her son Dequan were arrested by YPD in December 2005, after putting out old furniture for “illegal dumping.”
Dequan was found guilty on little to no evidence and sentenced to work for free for Yonkers; 20-days of community service. "He just worked two days and Ms. London, the court's community service supervisor is already talking about changing his assignment," Dara says. Dara feels this may be a form of retaliation for not dropping Dequan's lawsuit. Dara herself refused to plead guilty. Her case has been adjourned to September. After coming to the aid of her son while the boy was being arrested, she was pummeled by cops; yet, she was the one who was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration—the usual nonsense, Yonkers residents say.
Since The Black Star launched its investigative series on Yonkers PD, this columnist has been deluged with calls. I called Mayor Amicone to let him know what I was hearing on the streets and to suggest he also take a stroll and speak to Yonkers’ Black Citizens. I also wanted to know how his office was addressing the complaints from his Black Citizens.
“No—the mayor does not do that,” David Simpson, the Mayor’s mouth, told me over the phone. “We have a mechanism in place in the police department that was established to deal with civil complaints.” The “mechanism,” the mayor’s mouth was referring to was Yonkers’ Internal Affairs Division (IAD) of Yonkers’ PD.
I asked Simpson how could Yonkers cops continue terrorizing Black communities, punching women in the face, writing bogus summonses and retaliating without being disciplined. “It was a tricky thing. You know, we couldn’t really discipline the entire department,” Simpson says.
What he saying the entire YPD is out of control? “No,” he snapped. “That’s not what I said. Don’t put words in my mouth.” Then the mayor’s mouth hung up on me.
Mayor Amicone, if your mouth won’t talk to a newsman, please pick up the phone and call me at (212) 481-7745. Better yet, those Yonkers residents who continue to be victims of abuse should call Mayor Amicone at (914) 377-6300 and tell him to do his job. Let me know what the Mayor says after you make your call. In the meantime, I will check with the FBI’s Human Rights Division and see if some agents can attend the next forum in a few weeks time.
The same Internal Affairs that Simpson referred to seems to rip up people’s complaints. “I filed two complaints against the cops from the 3rd precinct last year and have not been contacted by anyone,” says Deborah Johnson, a mother of two teenage sons who were arrested on their block while celebrating Memorial Day. During the same celebrations, a cop bashed a 14-year-old Black male in the head with his baton; the blood gush was stopped with 15 staples later.
Yonkers Citizens also think twice about calling cops even while under duress. Iesha Wills had a domestic dispute with her fiancé, Ger-Shun Neely, recently. She says when the police arrived from the 3rd precinct, before she could tell them why she had called, they were already putting on their black gloves.
The cops took Neely in a back room, closed the door and administered a Yonkers Special on him—he was beaten for about 45 minutes she says. “Over 20 cops were in my house,” she recalls. “I would never ever call the police again. We are getting out of here, it’s too much.”
Neely has been incarcerated in Valhalla prison since the May 16th incident. “His case is going to the Grand Jury in Westchester County,” Wills notes with regret. “Investigators from Internal Affairs visited my house and stated that he still smelled the mace.”
There are three little children living in the house—YPD did not send anyone to decontaminate that room. Yonkers Police Commissioner Hartnett was formerly employed with the New York Police Department (NYPD); brutality complaints are not new to him. I called his office several times at (914) 377-7200 and left messages with his secretary who, like a robot, always says: “He’s in a meeting; he has not come out of a meeting.” Hartnett doesn’t even live in Yonkers.
Out of approximately 600 Yonkers police officers, only 32 are African American. When The Black Star News’ publisher called Yonkers PD to ask whom he could speak with about diversity within the department, the officer who took the call burst out laughing. The Deep South in the Near North.
I decided to have a word with the President of the Yonkers Police Benevolent Association (PBA), Eddie Armour, so I called (914) 377-7371; I even sent a fax and e-mail message. I’m still waiting to hear from Armour.
State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Yonkers Councilperson Sandy Annabi did not return my calls made to their offices seeking comment before press time.
I had several conversations with Black men on the streets of Yonkers – I again urge the Mayor to make a similar tour. “Yeah, these cops out here are killers,” an elderly Black man standing on the corner in Getty Square, tells me. “If they catch you right, they’ll kill you. When these racist cops call you out of your name, nigger this, nigger that – the Black cops are standing right there not saying a word. Man, it’s crazy here in Yonkers. Stay right here long enough you’ll see what I’m talking about.”
I stood long enough and a cop car pulled up one evening and an officer leaned out and ordered the young men I was speaking with to “go home.” I asked the officers if there was a curfew in Yonkers. The cops looked at each other in shock; then they looked at me menacingly. Then when one of them noticed my press card, he muttered something and they drove off. Without a press card I wonder whether I too would have received the Yonkers Special.
Black Star News Publisher’s Note: All roads lead to Yonkers on Saturday July 21st at 2 P.M. to stand up against police abuse. Every man, woman and child living in Yonkers should be there. Your liberty; indeed, your life, could depend on it. For more information call 212-690-3070 or send an e-mail message Katrina@nationalactionnetwork.net
Columnist Winkfield’s Note: If you tuned in to Black talk radio WLIB 1190 AM with Imhotep Gary Byrd’s, “Mind flight,” which once aired Monday thru Thursday mornings from 12:00 A.M. to 5:00 A.M., and are like most of us – ‘tired of being dumbed-down because of a lack of news and information in your community and around the city.’ Tell WLIB management, “I want to listen to the old Black talk radio program listed above. One day is a disservice to our communities,” contact: Deon Levingston, Vice President and General Manager, WLIB Radio, 3 Park Avenue, New York New York 10016; telephone – 212-592-0426. Send me your response and any reply and I will print it in this column. Let’s stay informed.
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