Broken Windows: Lawyer Says Cops Routinely Park In Bus Stops And Block Fire Hydrants

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Attorney Neville O. Mitchell. Photo credit: Hakim Mutlaq

A Bronx-based criminal defense attorney says officers of the New York Police Department (NYPD) should be subjected to a test the department always preaches --"broken windows"-- by obeying the law and not parking police vehicles on bus stops, in front of fire hydrants, and blocking the street.

"You have to give respect to get respect," says the attorney, Neville O. Mitchell, referring to officers of the NYPD. He says the officers prefer to commit parking violations even though there is a nearby parking facility designated for the NYPD.

He says "broken windows" strategy should also be applied to police officers; battling smaller crimes to pre-empt major ones such as shooting unarmed Black males.

Mitchell whose offices are located on 161 Street in the Bronx near the court houses has documented, with photographs and video, for several weeks what he calls "blatant" violations by police officers. He says they park their marked and unmarked vehicles in the same street, including in front of the offices of the Bronx County District Attorney Darcel D. Clarke. "It is a dangerous practice," he says, of the parking. "It violates the law and causes incessant traffic jams."

On Wednesday, when Mitchell held a news conference in front of DA Clarke's offices to highlight the issue, police vehicles were indeed parked in the streets, including in the bus stop; one was blocking a fire hydrant and was video recorded by a reporter. Mitchell distributed photographs he took from his second floor window showing the police parking violations.

Mitchell says the "disregard" for the parking laws was an indication of the contempt the officers have for the public whom they serve.  "How can we expect these officers to respect us, or to respect young Black males, when they show such utter contempt for the public? They even park on bus stops and endanger the lives of elderly ladies" Mitchell says, in an interview.

He says it was the kind of contempt that leads to incidents such as the choke-hold killing of Eric Garner, the shooting deaths of Sean Bell and Ramarley Graham and other cases, Mitchell says.

The lawyer says when he contacted Clarke's office about the police vehicles he was told the DA "doesn't control" the police.  "If the district attorney, the chief law enforcement officer of the Bronx can't correct this, how could that office have ever prosecuted Richard Haste for killing Ramarley Graham? It did not."

(Graham, an 18-year old unarmed teenager was followed by police officer Haste into his house and shot dead on February 2, 2012 inside a bathroom. Haste claimed he thought Graham was reaching for a gun in his waistband. A Bronx County judge, Steven Barrett later vacated Haste's manslaughter indictment saying that the DA's instructions to the grand jury was flawed).

"From just east of Jerome Avenue to the district attorney's office on the south side of 161 street NYPD officers use official placards to take practically every metered parking space all day long," Mitchell says. "The street does not get cleaned by the department of sanitation and the city of New York receives no revenue. This too is a violation of public trust and an abuse that should be rectified immediately."

When contacted by The Black Star News, a spokesperson for DA Clarke referred calls to the NYPD and also repeated that the DA didn't control the way the police park. When asked whether the district attorney wasn't concerned that parking violations by police officers were being committed in front of her office, the spokesperson paused for several seconds before saying, "We are not going to comment on that one."

"To the New York Police Commissioner O'Neal, I say police officers must obey the laws. They should be helping elderly ladies cross the streets not disrespecting the public," Mitchell says, referring to NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill.

Mitchell says he held the news conference in case some elderly lady or any other member of the public got injured and Mayor Bill de Blasio says he'd never been told about the problem.

The NYPD didn't respond to an inquiry from The Black Star News seeking comment.

The mayor's press office also didn't respond to a request for comment.

Mitchell says he and other colleagues in the legal profession will soon officially launch a new organization that will help ensure that African Americans are accorded rights they are entitled to under the constitution when interacting with the judicial establishment. He says a separate organization will also be announced and will primarily engage in: legislative reforms such as making police officers who wrongfully kill unarmed civilians personally liable; educational reform including the launch of Black-operated schools; and, political education to increase participation by African Americans in elections, as voters and candidates, and in fielding candidates for elective office.





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