Following a violent altercation between the police and a man suspected of harassing people at the Church Avenue subway station on Wednesday night, at least one neighbor is left concerned about police and community relations as the 70th Precinct investigates the matter.
The neighbor describes the scene she came upon after exiting the station at about 8:30pm:
On the northeast corner of Church and 18th Street, a group of police officers was surrounding a man. He was a short, middle-aged man, Spanish speaking, and clearly not in his right mind. My guess would be that he was either very, very drunk or on drugs. He looked unappealing, perhaps homeless, but harmless. The police officers were telling him to leave the area, shouting things like, “Go on, get the f**k out of here! Go! I already told you, get the f**k out of here. If I see you again I’ll put your ass in jail!”
As I crossed the street, a tall young policeman put both hands on the drunk’s chest and shoved him backwards. He fell on the street. Several of the police officers laughed. They continued to shout at and threaten him as he struggled back to his feet, mumbling incoherently. The aggressive officer squared off, nose-to-nose with the man. Eventually someone, perhaps a friend of the drunk man, stepped forward and managed to hustle him away, with the police officers continuing to yell threats at their backs.
…the police assaulted him and I think that would be inappropriate, to say the very least, at any time and under any circumstances. At a time when our neighborhood is experiencing a high level of tension, it endangers the public welfare and the peacefulness of the neighborhood.
…These cops gave the impression of kids looking for a rumble. I wondered who I could call for help if the incident had escalated? I wished I’d had the presence of mind to take out my smart phone and photograph or videotape the policemen’s actions.
To state the very obvious: behavior like this feeds the public mistrust of the police. Police officers are observed by the public and they, and all of their brother and sister officers, are judged accordingly. These cops were amateurs.
Lt. Jacqueline Bourne of the 70th Precinct’s Community Affairs office tells us that there had been a 911 call saying that the man had been harassing people on the train.
“We are very upset to hear about this,” she said. “The precinct does not tolerate that. That’s absolutely not behavior that we condone.”
She says that they are investigating the incident to figure out who the officers are that were involved.