East New York

75th precinct to wear body cameras by November as tensions rise in community

Eagle Cameras Censored by Police During Public Meeting

October 6, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Inspector Michael Lipetri took command of the 75th Precinct in East New York, which will be the first Brooklyn precinct to wear body cameras
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Tension was high during a recent 75th Precinct Community Council meeting in East New York, where distrust between police and the community has simmered for years, but is now coming to a boil since the July death of Eric Garner in Staten Island.

At the most recent meeting, which is held on the first Wednesday of each month, tempers flared over a recent alleged incident. Members of the community have charged police with using excessive force and assaulting a local high school vice principal on Sept. 28.

“The principal was assaulted when she attempted to ask the police why they needed to use excessive force and expletives [during an arrest],” said Rickford Burke, president of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID). “A young child, 15 years old, was assaulted with visible marks on the side of his face.

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“I am appealing to you to try to increase the dialogue between the community and the police and to have your officers treat the community with respect,” Burke continued. “Yes, young men must treat the officers with respect; I don’t condone any violence or disrespect, but it must be a two-way street.”

Community members charge that cops allegedly beat and arrested Travis Bynoe for videotaping a confrontation with police officers and another resident of East New York. It is also alleged that Vice Principal Caroline Daly and a 15-year-old were assaulted during the incident. Daly noted that she was merely trying to ease the tension between police and onlookers during the incident when she was allegedly assaulted.

Inspector Michael Lipetri, who took over command of the 75th Precinct two months ago, declined to comment on specifics of the incident, as it is currently under investigation, but encouraged anyone with any video evidence of the event to submit it to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the district attorney and/or local elected officials. He noted that all complaints are taken seriously and will be investigated.

Lipetri then said he didn’t feel that the community council meeting was the best place to discuss such issues and reminded members in attendance of his open door policy.

“I don’t know if this is healthy to go about it this way,” Lipetri said. “I listen to the complaints and if I feel that an officer should be disciplined then he’s disciplined. There is a CCRB; there are district attorneys; there is a U.S. Attorney; there is internal affairs. These complaints are investigated, and they are investigated fully.”

On that note, Chris Bank, who referred to himself as a local activist, declared that investigations aren’t enough if the officers are still patrolling the neighborhood while they are under investigation.

“We want these officers removed while the investigation is going on,” Bank said. “When this issue comes up, yes, an investigation needs to take place, but these officers need to be removed from this precinct or sent to do something else — not walking around the community where they are harassing folks and disrespecting the community.”

Lipetri pointed out that there are 120 block parties a year within the confines of the 75th Precinct, and the 240 cops who police them each year are ordered “not to enforce the law, but to make sure that everyone has a good time.”  He noted that cops at these block parties often receive glowing endorsements.

Lipetri also reminded community members that cops in the 75th Precinct deal with a lot of violent crime.

“We are talking about 2,600 victims of a violent crime within this community this year, and that’s something that we need to all work on,” Lipetri said. “It does start with the community trusting the police department. There is no doubt about that. I just hope that everyone has an open mind and we can continue to talk about this.”

The meeting ended after Sharron Lindo, who recently moved to Brownsville from Texas, was in the middle of asking a question. She was cut off three times by the Community Council Vice President Donna Diaz during her remarks before she finally walked out of the building when Diaz interrupted with, “It’s my understanding that you live in Brownsville and not East New York.”

 

BODY CAMERAS

During the meeting, Lipetri announced that “sometime within the next month,” members of the 75th Precinct will be outfitted with body cameras. He said it will begin slowly as a pilot program with one officer per shift wearing the cameras. He also noted that many details still need to be worked out before the installation starts — like when and where the officers are required to wear the cameras.

“It will start within the next month at eight or 10 precincts throughout the city, and, with great pleasure, I truly mean that, it is coming to the 75th Precinct,” Lipetri said. “Like I always tell my officers, there is always video out there anyway, so we might as well get the video that shows our perspective, and I think it’s great.”

 

EAGLE CAMERAS CENSORED

Even with video cameras being a prominent discussion point at the meeting, two reporters from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle were ordered by police to stop filming during the council meeting — despite the fact that they were legally allowed to film the public meeting.

“You guys are not allowed to record at a community council meeting,” said Community Affairs Officer Marcus Johnson. “I thought you guys were taking pictures. You have to turn it off. Turn it off… . Nobody has given permission, you never asked anyone permission to be recorded at any time whatsoever. This is a precinct council meeting. There is no recording allowed whatsoever.”

The same officer later admitted that the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is legally allowed to film at such events, but by this time, the meeting was nearly over. Eagle reporters were also instructed not to take photos of any members of the audience, despite the fact that this is also legal (and one audience member even asked to be photographed). The reporters were instructed to only take still photos of police officers.


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