Bay Ridge

Assembly candidates speak out on racial tensions

July 13, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assembly hopeful Kate Cucco says she was overcome with “overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger and outrage” when she heard about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Photo courtesy of Cucco’s campaign. Assemblymember Pamela Harris called for everyone to come together. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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The deadly violence that saw two African-American men being fatally shot by cops and the assassinations of five white police officers has become a topic of discussion in the Democratic Primary in a state Assembly District (AD) that stretches from predominantly white Bay Ridge to Coney Island, a neighborhood with a large black population.

Kate Cucco, who is challenging Assemblymember Pamela Harris in the Democratic Primary in the 46th AD, called on cops to wear body cameras so that their interactions with the public can be recorded. Cucco also said cops should be given stun guns and be trained to reach for the stun guns in emergency situations.

Harris vowed to work on legislation to reduce the number of guns on the streets.

Cucco, who lives in Bay Ridge, is white. Harris, a Coney Island resident who won the Assembly seat in a special election last year, is black.

“Let me start by saying I am well-aware that I am a white woman. And therefore I can only speak from my life experiences as a white woman,” Cucco said. “I would never pretend to know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. What I can tell you is when I watched the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile footage I was overcome with overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger and outrage, all while thinking to myself, ‘Here we go again.’”

The status quo is not working, according to Cucco. “Communities of color believe they are unfairly targeted and treated differently simply because of the color of their skin while white people get treated in a much more respectful manner,” she said.

Harris, a retired New York City correction officer, said she was heartbroken by the deaths of Sterling and Castile as well as the deaths of the five Dallas police officers.

“I send my deepest condolences and prayers to the loved ones of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the law enforcement officers who lost their lives to gun violence last week. As a woman of color and former member of the law enforcement community, these tragedies are especially troubling for me. There are no justifications for these deaths — no one should ever have to live in fear due to the color of their skin or the profession they chose,” Harris said.

Harris called on blacks and whites to work together.

“It is now up to us to take a stand to create positive change. And in order to do that, we must unite as one to come up with peaceful solutions to address the systemic issues in our communities and improve police-community relationships. We must work to resolve our differences and treat everyone with respect and ensure that those who inflict harm on others are brought to justice,” she said.

Harris vowed to push for stricter gun laws. “I’ll keep fighting to help keep guns off our streets and our communities safe, because no one deserves to live in a society plagued by violence,” she said.

Cucco, who is vice president of the 68th Precinct Community Council, said that while she has “the utmost respect for the brave men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line each and every day,” she believes that the time has come for drastic changes in how police are trained.

“With technology today, we have a moral imperative to modernize how law enforcement acts and restore faith from communities of color that law enforcement is on their side. I am strongly in favor of equipping all members of law enforcement with body cameras, and stun guns so that both the public as well as the officer know that everything they are doing is being recorded and deadly force used only in extreme life-threatening situations,” she said.


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