YONKERS, N.Y. – A White Plains man whose father was shot and killed by police officers last year continued his calls for police oversight and accountability Thursday night in Yonkers.
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., an organizer of the Network For Police Accountability, asked public safety leaders about the steps they have taken to monitor officers’ behavior during a meeting at the Peter Chema Community Center.
Although many officers may be stand-up individuals, Chamberlain said, some are not, and he asked how the community can be protected from rogue cops.
“You do have certain officers who have a totally different outlook on how they deal with individuals in the community, especially in our black and Latino community,” he said. “What mechanisms are in place that maybe I don’t know about, because I’ve looked and I can’t find any.”
Chamberlain’s questions came as part of a town hall session hosted by Westchester County Legislator Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers), chairman of the county’s Public Safety and Security committee. A room full of Yonkers politicians as well as high-ranking brass from the Yonkers Police Department fielded questions from concerned individuals, including Chamberlain, during the two-hour meeting.
The former correction officer has crusaded for police oversight since the shooting death of his father, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., in November. Chamberlain, 68, was shot by a White Plains police officer after an hourlong standoff at his apartment.
Months later, a Westchester County grand jury decided not to indict the officer who pulled the trigger and killed Chamberlain. Thursday, his son pointed to Perez’s website, which says police are supposed to provide citizens with the highest level of safety and security.
“My father was not afforded that,” he said. “And that was at the hands of individuals who had sworn to serve and protect.”
Perez said she and police department take police misconduct seriously and urged residents to come forward if they have complaints. “We don’t like it when it happens and the numbers are very low, but we want to hear from you to address those issues and take action when those issues do arise,” she said.
Damon Jones, head of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America’s Westchester Chapter and a childhood friend of Chamberlain, said he thought many problems, including the Chamberlain incident, are in the makeup of police departments around Westchester.
With no residency requirements, often a small percentage of officers live in the communities they work in, lessening their level of attachment to the neighborhoods, he said.
“If the officers live where they work they are stakeholders, they’re actually partners with the citizens in the community they serve,” he said.
The solution starts at the recruitment level, he said, urging police to target future officers within their own neighborhoods.
“We’re going to work with them and try to get young, college-educated people to go into the departments where they live,” he said.