Dear Members of the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association:
1) The April 6th video footage shows 4 police officers run across the Commons and immediately body slam, taser and handcuff Cadji Ferguson. Not one person identifies themselves as a police officer. Without asking any questions, they shoot an unarmed man in the back with a potentially lethal weapon, a taser.
2) The video shows that Ferguson never resists arrest, nor does he trip anyone. The police make no attempt to diffuse the situation. To date, police officers have never asked Cadji what happened that night.
3) Also captured on video, Joseph Ming, a large, white man pushes Ferguson and strikes de Groat. Defending himself, Ferguson punches Ming once. At the trial, officer Herz described the punch as a “haymaker.” A “haymaker” is defined as a particularly powerful finishing blow. Yet Ming gets up in less than one second.
4) When asked why he didn’t question Joseph Ming, Officer Herz responded that Ming was too drunk to be questioned. The officer went on to state that it is police policy not to question a person who is drunk. No such policy exists.
5) During Cadji’s trial, Judge Miller stated that Mr. Ming did, in fact, pose an escalating series of threats to the group and that Cadji’s single punch (which is what the police used to try to justify their violent responses) was a reasonable and legal response.
6) We also learn from video footage that an officer asks Mr. Ming (the man who was too drunk to be questioned) if he wants to press charges. When Ming declines, the office points him towards his hotel and suggests he get some rest. The aggressive instigator of the entire incident is treated with deference and respect.
7) Rose de Groat, shocked to witness an assault on her friend, at first did not understand that the people attacking Cadji were police officers. She tries to protect Cadji from harm, flails at police officers, and ends up body-slammed, handcuffed, publicly humiliated and then chained to a bench overnight in the police station.
8) Police officer Herz testified at Cadji Ferguson’s trial that there were about 75 people at the scene on the Commons at the time of the incident, yet he counted only 14 on the screen when the enhanced video was projected. Three were police. When asked about the discrepancy he replied that he didn’t think the numbers mattered. Yet the inflated numbers were part of the argument made by police about their duty to protect the (imagined) dense crowd from a disturbance of the peace. Instead of protecting people, the police violently assaulted two innocent African American Ithacans.
9) The internal investigation was conducted by fellow police officers who found no wrongdoing. A real investigation would be conducted by impartial outsiders. “Establishing effective and fair processes to address biased policing allegations is a fundamental component of the police department’s relationship with the public, helping to build trust and confidence,” says Margaret Degarnett, a NYC commissioner of the Department of Investigation.
Why should the public trust our safety to Ithaca police officers who have a long history of violence against people of color, use tasers without cause, and lie about policies in court? The police need to be held accountable for their violent assault of two innocent African Americans. The two responded the way I would hope any friend would respond: by defending each other and protecting each other from violence. They deserve more than an apology. Reparations need to be made to Cadji and Rose for police brutality, loss of income, physical harm, and emotional suffering.