Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. and his lawyers held a press conference Wednesday morning along with other interested parties to emphatically denounce a recent report, which reviewed and analyzed White Plains Police Department policy and activities. The independent report, solicited by White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach, found that the death of Kenneth Chamberlain, father of Chamberlain Jr., on Nov. 19, 2011, was justifiable by police.
In an emotional hour-long press conference in front of the Westchester County Court House in White Plains Wednesday, Chamberlain and other speakers called for justice and requested the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI conduct a review of the White Plains Police Department. Pertaining to the portion of the report that reviewed the Chamberlain shooting, speakers noted multiple deficiencies.
Damon K. Jones of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America said the groups at the press conference, which also included the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the NCAAP, were there to express their “outrage” regarding the report. He also said the “one-sided” report is far from any conclusion needed in order for the city government and community to move forward.
“In essence, the paper is not worth the ink that’s it’s written on” Jones said. “This report here shouldn’t be called an analysis of the police department. It should be ‘Police 101 for Dummies’ because they’re taking the taxpayers of Westchester County and they’re taking the citizens of White Plains for dummies with this report.”
Following the press conference in an interview, Jones said he believed that the Justice Department would get involved and that if it were to happen, it’d be following election season.
Jones also said Mayor Roach should be “ashamed.”
Roach who made a statement when the report was released had no further comment, senior advisor to the Mayor Karen Pasquale said.
Kenneth Chamberlain also spoke on behalf of the Chamberlain family and said his father was a victim of a crime.
“The crime was murder,” Chamberlain Jr. said. “The perpetrators of the crime just so happen to be members of the White Plains Police Department and they should not be treated any differently than anyone out there.”
Chamberlain said following the press conference he hopes that if the Justice Department investigates, the results would be more truth revealing.
It’s an inherent conflict of interest for the city of White Plains to investigate themselves, Chamberlain said. “This is why you need independent investigators form the very beginning.”
While the report did recommend 22 potential changes for the police force, it did exonerate the police in the shooting. Chamberlain said that indicates the police did something wrong in the case of the shooting against his father.
The 83-page report cost the city $25,000. It was co-authored by Maria Haberfeld chair of the Department of Law and Police Science at the City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; John DeCarlo director at the Center for Advanced Policing, associate professor and criminal justice researcher at University of New Haven; Robert Vodde director Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Criminal Justice; and Michael Walker associate professor at Passaic Community College, teaching the use of force by police at academies throughout New Jersey and former director of the Paterson, New Jersey Police Department.
The report analyzes White Plains police hiring and training procedures and how they relate to minority and community populations in the city. Special attention is given to involvement with people with mental disorders and to preventing violent crime. Site visits, interviews of police personnel, including the Commissioner of Police, David Chong, as well as the Chief of Police, James Bradley, examination of the departmental policies and procedures, a host of documents related to the organizational and operational structure of the department and a variety of open sources are quoted and referred to in the report document.
Recommendations are provided throughout for White Plains Police Department follow-up and procedural changes. There are 22 recommendations in all. However, these recommendations are followed by a general commendation of department procedure and personnel as being exceptionally professional. The report summary states: “Despite the list of 22 recommendations it is of utmost importance to state that we have found in White Plains a department of a professional stature that can certainly serve as a model to many police departments in the country.”
In a specific section of the document pertaining to the Kenneth Chamberlain shooting that reviews actions and reactions that took place over the few hours of the incident, involving both Mr. Chamberlain and police officers on the scene, Professor Michael Walker’s assessment is the most pertinent. This section is contained in a few paragraphs on two pages.
The authors of the complete document in this section state: “Based on Prof. Walker’s assessment of the documents presented to us, his law enforcement training and experience it is his belief that the shooting of Mr. Chamberlain was totally justified and took place only after negotiations and all non-lethal means were unsuccessful and Mr. Chamberlain came at a police sergeant with a knife.”
From the beginning, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., supported by his lawyers Mayo Bartlett and Randolph McLaughlin, has disagreed with police findings and has claimed his father’s death was unnecessary.
The incident began as an emergency medical call because Mr. Chamberlain’s medical alert device had gone off, causing operators to call his home. There was no immediate answer and when Mr. Chamberlain was made aware that a call had been made, he claimed he was fine and asked to be left alone. Emergency Medical Service workers and police were already on the scene and police demanded access to Mr. Chamberlain’s apartment to determine that he was alright. Mr. Chamberlain refused to let them in.
The situation escalated. The police then forced their way into the apartment to check on Chamberlain’s well being, used a taser, then a beanbag gun before the former Marine came at them with a knife. At that point, police fired two rounds at him, killing him.
Recordings of Mr. Chamberlain’s discourse included police use of a racial slur and threats from Mr. Chamberlain that he would harm anyone entering his apartment. Chamberlain, Jr. says his father was vulnerable and reacting in fear to police taunting.
The use of a racial slur by police does not appear in the recently released report.
Carlton Berkeley, a retired police detective from the New York Police Department also spoke at the Wednesday press conference and said he never used racial epithets to get someone to do what the police needed him or her to do.
“It’s an incident that sickens me to my stomach,” Berkeley said. “It sickens me to my core.”
Many of the people at the press conference Wednesday are expected to be at a Nov. 5 Common Council meeting to address the report.