Let's address controversial arrest


(re: “CB8 committee is indeed fair,” Feb. 22)

In her recent opinion piece, Community Board 8 chair Rosemary Ginty says that the community board takes the allegations of police misconduct in the arrest and brutal beating of 16-year-old Alfred Burns seriously.

There is no evidence of this. There has been no public mention of the Oct. 6 incident by CB8 since then, except in response to questions from the public.

Ms. Ginty says that “the public safety committee has no authority or staff ability to investigate allegations of the use of excessive force by the” New York Police Department, but simultaneously states that part of the board’s mission is to “monitor the police.”

With no action coming from our community board, concerned residents of CB8 continue to wait for results of investigations into Alfred Burns’ arrest by the NYPD internal affairs board, and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

However, as CB8 and its public safety committee know, North Bronx Racial Justice has raised not one, but two concerns about the arrest of Alfred Burns. The first is the police misconduct videotaped during the incident itself. 

Our other concern is Deputy Inspector Terence O’Toole’s two remarkable statements to The Riverdale Press in the days following the incident: Burns “is a scourge on the Bronx at 16 years old. He is going to fight with police for the rest of his life, guaranteed.” 

And the next cop that he encounters may have to shoot him because he is going to fail to comply. 

Because this is going to be his lifestyle forever. And that a woman screaming during the incident may be arrested for “inciting a riot.”

Unlike the beating of Alfred Burns at the time of his arrest on Oct. 6, Mr. O’Toole’s statements are not being evaluated by internal affairs or the CCRB. And despite repeated requests for reactions to Mr. O’Toole’s statements from CB8 and local elected officials, North Bronx Racial Justice — including local clergy leaders and nearly 200 local residents who signed a petition — have drawn a blank.

In sum: Rosemary Ginty ignores our concern about Mr. O’Toole’s statements in her Feb. 22 piece. Mary Yamagata’s notes about the Jan. 16 public safety committee, at which we shared our concerns about O’Toole’s statements, contain no reference to them. 

At a meeting in November with members of North Bronx Racial Justice, including local clergy leaders, Councilman Andrew Cohen agreed with our concern about Mr. O’Toole’s statements, and pledged to meet with him and report back to us. 

Mr. Cohen’s office has failed to respond to repeated requests for his promised report.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz told us that he wasn’t particularly concerned about Mr. O’Toole’s statements, and refused to speak with him.

In response to our concern that when members of our coalition asked Ms. Yamagata about the mandate of her committee during the Jan. 16 meeting, they were told twice: “I ask the questions here, you do not.” 

Ms. Ginty finesses by surmising that Ms. Yamagata felt pressed for time.

Vis-à-vis Ms. Ginty’s points about the public safety committee’s holding all of their meetings at the 50th Precinct, our coalition did not say that no meetings should ever be held there. We requested that not all meetings be held there. 

Ms. Ginty seems to suggest that the meetings of the public safety committee are the only opportunity for the community to visit the precinct. As Ms. Ginty must know, there are monthly community meetings at the 50th.

In any case, in no definition of “community policing” that we’ve seen does the public or local officials abrogate their responsibility to maintain their independence from the police. If, as Ms. Ginty says, one of the roles of the public safety committee is to “monitor the police,” how can it credibly monitor and hold to account an organization within whose walls it meets, without exception?

In addition, is CB8 and its public safety committee not concerned that citizens or undocumented people with complaints or concerns about the 50th may feel unable to speak freely within the walls of the 50th?

To CB8 and the public safety committee: Hundreds of local residents continue to await your public response to the dangerous statements Mr. O’Toole made to this paper following the arrest of Alfred Burns.

To Councilman Cohen: The North Bronx Racial Justice awaits your promised report about your meeting with Mr. O’Toole. 

There are too many issues of public safety and accountability at stake here for concerned residents of this area to turn a blind eye.

The author states she’s speaking on behalf of North Bronx Racial Justice.