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Police beat down: Cops berated at town hall on police brutality

No trumpets here: Police brass remained largely silent during the more than two-hour town hall.
Brooklyn Daily
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Police brass faced the ire of outraged Sunset Parkers for three hours at a town hall meeting on Oct. 1, where critics berated them over the violent clashes between cops and residents recently captured on video — including the apparent beating of a pregnant woman.

Police Chief Phillip Banks III, Patrol Chief James O’Neill, Chief of Community Affairs Joanne Jaffe, and 72nd Precinct Commanding Officer Tommy Ng all stoically took the verbal lashing, while barely getting a word in edgewise.

When Banks took the microphone to respond to a question, he was drowned out by chants of “Fire Bratton.”

As livid locals tried to shout down the Department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, organizers from police watchdog group El Grito De Sunset Park and the Congress for Puerto Rican Rights tried to defuse the tension by taking the microphone from Banks and handing it back to the people who lined up to testify before the panel.

Locals’ frustration with the department was palpable before the meeting even started, and the first order of business was to show a 10-minute video montage shot by El Grito depicting Sunset Parkers clashing with heavy-handed police.

When Banks did get a word in, it was to toe the department line.

“Commissioner [Bill] Bratton is concerned with what he saw in these videos,” Banks said. “But an overwhelming majority of police do the right thing.”

Bringing up the conspicuously absent Bratton only fired up the crowd further.

“We see top brass here, but we don’t see the top of the brass,” said activist John Remos.

But others at the town hall said the problem is bigger than the commissioner. Violent responses from police are systemic and transcend race or ethnicity, one man said.

“These guys have been corrupt since before Bratton,” said Nicholas Heyward, whose 13-year-old son was shot by police for playing cops and robbers with toy guns in the Gowanus Houses in 1994. “It doesn’t matter if the officer is black, white, Puerto Rican — inside the NYPD, everything is blue.”

Police did not respond to questions about why Bratton did not attend Wednesday’s town hall, but the commissioner reportedly held a meeting with 700 police brass the following day to reiterate the department’s policy against abuse.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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