STATEN ISLAND, New York (FinalCall.com) – While Staten Islanders, New York activists and others wait for the special grand jury to hear the case against police officers in the July 17 ‘chokehold’ death of Eric Garner, 43, an unarmed Black man, Ramsey Orta, whose video of the incident went viral appeared in Staten Island Supreme Court, Sept. 5.
Police officials claim Mr. Garner was resisting arrest as he was allegedly selling “un-taxed” cigarettes. The New York City Medical Examiner has ruled Mr. Garner’s death a homicide.
According to court documents, Mr. Orta’s case was adjourned for a conference and he is scheduled to return Oct. 31.
The 23-year-old was arrested in his neighborhood Aug. 3, and charged with felony firearm possession and weapon possession, for allegedly having an un-loaded handgun. On August 8, he was represented by a court-appointed attorney and given a bail of $75,000. Mr. Orta and his family claim the charges to be “trumped up” as retaliation for the video.
On Sept. 4, another shoe dropped relating to the case of Mr. Garner as some New York City school teachers wore t-shirts that read “New York’s Brightest supports New York’s Finest #ThankyouNYPD” in protest of their union participating in the Aug. 23 “Justice for Eric Garner” march that drew thousands.
News reports circulated Sept. 4, the United Federation of Teachers (UTF) had asked teachers not to wear the controversial t-shirt, however, one daily newspaper photographed teachers at a Queens school wearing it; and there were reports of teachers at several Staten Island schools wearing the t-shirt.
The Final Call contacted the UFT, and the union spokesman said they had no idea how many teachers actually wore it, or what schools participated.
A general statement was issued: “The Eric Garner march was a teachable moment for all New Yorkers.”
The UFT president, Michael Mulgrew, a Staten Island resident further stated that he would be calling a meeting of teachers and parents that marched, and teachers who thought the UFT should not have taken part in the march.
On Sept. 27, there will be a rally on Staten Island “Show Your Support For Your Police,” sponsored by Citizens in Support For All Law Enforcement Agencies.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates claims of police misconduct, was scheduled to meet Sept. 10, in Staten Island as part of its new policy to hold public meetings in the outer boroughs. Normally the public meetings were held in Manhattan in the morning. The Staten Island meeting was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. In a statement the Review Board noted the island meeting “was not chosen on the basis of any particular incident.”
Linda Sachs, spokeswoman for the CCRB shared statistical data with The Final Call on the number of police complaints filed in Staten Island over the past several years including 220 in 2009, 182 in 2010, 149 in 2011, 177 in 2012 and 124 in 2013. According to the U.S. Census, 80 percent of Staten Island’s Black population lives within the Staten Island Police 120th precinct’s jurisdiction
On the heels of the CCRB meeting, NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced the precinct on Staten Island would be one of four areas chosen to participate in a pilot program outfitting police officers with body cameras.
“We are encouraging our members to participate in the body-camera program,” said Charles Billups, chairperson of the Grand Council of Guardians, one of the oldest organizations that represent the interests of Black police officers. He said the NYPD claims the program will be voluntary. “But, rest assured rookie cops will be wearing the cameras,” Mr. Billups told The Final Call.
“The Street Crime Units should be mandated to wear the cameras,” Mr. Billups added. It was a Street Crime Unit that tried to arrest Mr. Garner.
On July 28, a story appeared in local papers claiming that seven of the most sued police officers are assigned to the 120th precinct. It is being reported the narcotics unit has a high amount of lawsuits despite being the smallest narcotics bureau in New York City, totaling $6 million in payouts.
“Clean up the 120 Precinct or close it down,” said Ed Josey, president of the NAACP in Staten Island. Regarding the cameras Mr. Josey said he could not say they would help, but that they certainly will not hurt.
Michael Sweat, 42, told The Final Call he thinks the cameras are a good idea. According to Mr. Sweat, in 1998 he settled with New York City for an undisclosed amount due to a beating by officers from the 120th Precinct.
“I think it is good the police are going to be wearing those cameras. They have been getting away with a lot of things. I would feel safer,” he said.