Ithaca, N.Y. — The Ithaca police finding that a sergeant was essentially justified in pulling his weapon on two unarmed teens came with the supporting statement that the teens refused to cooperate with the police review.
The importance of this detail is clear. Without the teens’ perspective, it’s hard to imagine how a review would have not exonerated the sergeant.
Ithaca officials close to the parents of the boys, however, say there is a good reason that the teens’ side of the story was not included. And, they say, it’s not because the teens refused to cooperate.
Here’s the timeline relayed by Travis Brooks, of GIAC:
The parents and police agreed to set up a time for the internal affairs investigators to talk with the teens.
A little later, however, the family received another call. According to Brooks, it soon became clear that the boys would be questioned by a juvenile detective about the arsons that occurred about more than an hour before their detention.
That, Brooks said, was an unwelcome change from the previous request for the boys to meet with the internal affairs investigators.
“They didn’t refuse to meet with you,” Brooks said of police. “They refused to meet after you called and said you wanted to meet about a crime.”
Brooks recalled the family’s reaction to the offer to meet with an investigator about the arson.
“Wait a second? The arson isn’t supposed to be what we’re discussing,” Brooks said.
“Now that you’re wanting to talk to them about arson, we’re not going to set you up without a lawyer, because now they’re talking about a crime.”
Brooks said it would have been imprudent to let the kids speak with police about the arsons — even if that meant letting the police tell a one-sided story.
Brooks said the boys’ side of the story is still yet to be told.
Statement from org. Concerned Black Men, which includes several community leaders
The Voice has agreed to republish in full a statement from the community group, Concerned Black Men, about the incident:
On Saturday, August 9, 2014, two fifteen year olds were riding their bikes home when they noticed a vehicle was following them. They perceived the driver to be acting strangely and driving in an erratic manner. They became frightened when the car persisted in following them.
They called home and were instructed to rush to their grandmother’s house that was nearest to their location. The car pulled up in proximity to the two youth and the driver exited his vehicle. With his gun in his hand,he ordered them to lie on the ground face down and not move. This was highly threatening and we believe not justified by the behavior of these young men. Shortly thereafter marked Ithaca Police Department cars arrived on the scene as did the teen’s parents and family members.
The young men had no way of knowing that the driver of the car was an Ithaca police officer. He was out of uniform and in his private vehicle. When the parents asked why their sons were targeted, they were told the two teens seemed suspicious. The two fifteen year olds were released to their parents as it was determined by the police that there was no good reason to detain them.
We believe the treatment of these young men was highly improper and could have led to bodily harm. The behavior of the officer raises in Ithaca the specter of bodily harm to African American males that we see tragically taking place not only in Ferguson, Missouri, but in communities throughout the nation. We as fathers, uncles, grandfathers and mentors are very concerned about the treatment of these two teenaged boys.
Black and other youth of color in Ithaca are aware of this incident. The perception that an Ithaca police officer can draw a weapon on them when they have not committed a crime is an issue that Ithaca’s mayor must immediately address. We urge Mayor Myrick to immediately issue a public statement that neither he nor the Police Chief will tolerate racial profiling by the Ithaca Police Department.
There is a lack of public confidence that an internal investigation by the Ithaca Police Department can be thorough or unbiased. To gain public confidence, we urge the mayor to strengthen the role and capacity of the Community Police Board to conduct truly independent and unbiased investigations of allegations of police misconduct. If this cannot occur the appropriate state and/or federal agencies are resources that the City of Ithaca should use to achieve this goal.