Local activists are calling for Kingston cops to be held accountable for the July arrest and use of a Taser on a man while he was walking down Broadway with an open container of beer, calling the incident a clear example of excessive force. But the head of Kingston’s Police Benevolent Association said cops are concerned the protests will encourage people to resist lawful arrests and will have a chilling effect on the enforcement of quality-of-life ordinances in the city.
Adrin Brodhead, 24, was arrested July 20 shortly after midnight as he and a friend were walking past 440 Pizza on Broadway on the way home from work. According to Citizen Action community organizer Callie Jayne, who filed a formal complaint on Brodhead’s behalf, Brodhead was carrying an open container of beer in a paper bag when a police officer approached and began questioning him. According to Jayne’s account, taken from a sworn statement offered by Brodhead, the officer asked him where he was coming from, where he was going and demanded identification. Brodhead told the officer that he did not have ID, but willingly gave his name and Social Security number, Jayne said. As more officers arrived on the scene, Jayne said, Brodhead was told to place his hands behind his back, presumably to be handcuffed. Jayne said when Brodhead asked why he was being arrested, “Within seconds, he was pinned to the ground, pepper-sprayed and Tased.”
Brodhead was charged with violating city ordinances against carrying an open container of alcohol and littering — Jayne said that the littering charge stemmed from Brodhead placing his beer on the ground when cops approached — as well as misdemeanor resisting arrest.
McKenzie said Citizen Action became involved after one of Brodhead’s co-workers told her about the incident. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, protesters gathered at city court and KPD headquarters on Garraghan Drive to call on the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office to drop the charges against Brodhead and for the officers involved in his arrest to be disciplined. On Tuesday, Sept. 12, with Brodhead due in City Court for another hearing in the case, about 20 protesters turned out. Jayne urged the crowd to maintain pressure on Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti and Mayor Steve Noble to punish the officers involved in the incident.
“This is not about being anti-police, this is about holding people accountable for what they have done. [Brodhead] was just walking down the street when he was jumped by four guys,” Jayne told the crowd. “When the charges are open container, littering and resisting arrest, you have to wonder what the arrest was for.”
Jayne also blasted Noble for his remarks during a meeting about the incident with Citizen Action representatives. According to Jayne, Noble, who led an effort to have Kingston declared a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants and has emphasized in the importance of community oriented police, reportedly said of the Brodhead case, “It probably wasn’t the best stop, on both sides.” Jayne said that the remark, and what she said was the fact that Noble had not yet seen police video of the encounter, showed that he was not taking issues of racial profiling and police brutality seriously enough.
“We cannot let him hide behind being a liberal,” Jayne told the crowd.
In an email, Noble acknowledged meeting with Jayne and Brodhead on Aug. 29. Noble said that he was unaware that Brodhead would be attending the meeting until the sit-down began. Had he known, Noble wrote, he would have declined the meeting, citing the “open status of the case.” Noble said during the meeting he refrained from discussing specifics of the case and reiterated that there was a formal procedure for handling complaints of officer misconduct.
What did the videos capture?
Inside the courtroom, meanwhile, prosecutors turned over two videos from police vehicle dashboard cameras taken the night of Brodhead’s arrest. Assistant District Attorney Jarrid Blades told the court that the videos represented all known police recordings of the encounter. Ulster County Public Defender Andrew Kossover, meanwhile, asked Blades to determine whether any of the officers involved in the arrest were equipped with body-mounted cameras and, if so, whether they were activated during the encounter. Blades, in turn, asked Kossover to turn over a cell phone video of the encounter shot by a civilian witness. Speaking before the hearing, Kossover said that he hoped the videos would shed light on whether or not police had acted properly in the case.
“At this point, this is just an examination of the reasonableness of the police conduct in this incident,” said Kossover, who addressed Citizen Action protestors back on Aug. 29 and on Tuesday. “Quite frankly we’re still getting to the bottom of what happened and hopefully the video will help in that process.”
While Kossover is defending Brodhead in court, Jayne is waging her own campaign on his behalf to hold the officers involved accountable. Last week, she filed a formal complaint on his behalf with the Kingston Police Department. The proxy filing reflects new protocols put in place by Tinti to allow people to make formal allegations of police abuse via a third party using documents available on the city’s website and distributed to local clergy and other community groups. The complaint includes a sworn statement from Brodhead giving his version of the events.
Tinti said Deputy Chief John Wallace, who acts as the department’s internal affairs officer, would investigate the compliant and present his findings to the city’s five-member police commission. The commission will then decide if disciplinary actions against the officers are warranted. The commission is comprised of Mayor Noble and four civilian mayoral appointees and is expected to meet on Sept. 20. It is unclear whether Wallace’s investigation will be complete or if the Brodhead case will be on the agenda. Tinti said the commission would likely review all video from the case, interview the cops involved and possibly question Brodhead and other witnesses.
“Now that we have a formal complaint, the process by the police commission to make their determination can move forward,” said Tinti.
Police feeling fear
Brodhead’s complaint comes at a time when police agencies around the country are facing scrutiny over how officers interact with the public in general and minority populations in particular. The issue has been driven by high-profile shootings of unarmed suspects by police, the rise of the Black Lives Matter protest movement and the near ubiquity of cell phone video that has put a spotlight every cop on every beat in the nation. Kingston PBA President Barry Rell, a KPD sergeant, said this week officers increasingly feel caught between demands by the public and their superiors to enforce the law and the fear that doing so could endanger their careers.
“Officers right now are afraid to go out and do their jobs,” said Rell. “Nobody wants to go through a disciplinary hearing or a trial or a federal investigation over something that started as a guy walking down the street with a beer. At the same time we still have residents who want those laws enforced and a command that wants us to enforce them.”
Rell said PBA members were especially troubled by comments made by Kossover at the Aug. 29 protest, as reported in local media, that they construed as sending the message that citizens need not always comply with police commands. Rell said the comments, if accurate, seemed to encourage resistance to lawful police activity. Rell added that police were also concerned that outside pressure from groups like Citizen Action could make it more difficult for officers accused of misconduct to get a fair hearing.
“Our only concern [about the KPD’s disciplinary process] is some of the political pressure put on by some of these outside organizations,” said Rell. “There are a lot of groups out there that are very anti-police.”