2003-07-11 / Front Page

Talamo Fires Back

By Brian Magoolaghan
Talamo Fires Back By Brian Magoolaghan

Captain Charles Talamo, in a Wave interview this week, answered his critics and returned fire—this stemming from a July Fourth Belle Harbor beach incident where several locals were given summonses and others were arrested.

The major allegation being leveled against commanding officer Talamo and the 100 Precinct: selective enforcement. Party-goers have been reporting that complaint to the precinct, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr.’s office and to NYPD higher-ups. Talamo says the numbers speak for themselves.

In all, 11 criminal court summonses were issued on Beach 130 Street that day: seven for consuming alcohol or having an open container, one for possession of alcohol, and one of each for fireworks, disorderly conduct and unreasonable noise, according to Talamo and the New York City Police Department’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information. Alcohol is prohibited on the beach by the New York City Parks and Recreation Department (Parks Dept.).

Talamo said the most populated area on July Fourth was Beach 116 Street where nearly 40 summonses were issued. He further disclosed that arrests were made on Beach 98, 104, 113 and 117 Streets.

Talamo said the number of officers responding to the beach on 130 Street was exaggerated by eyewitnesses, and that reports of SWAT officers in riot gear are "absolutely untrue." Seven or eight plain-clothes and uniformed officers first observed and approached the party at around 1 p.m., Talamo said. At around 8 p.m., he said, about 20 officers and supervisors returned.

Since the incident, party-going residents have publicly called for Talamo’s removal and have registered complaints with Internal Affairs. Marie McGoldrick, who was at the party, called the police "rude, disrespectful, and condescending." The major New York City news outlets have carried stories about the ‘Belle Harbor September 11 memorial beach party that was shut down by cops.’

"We were just trying to have a day when Rockaway could remember the loved ones that we lost," said party-goer Liz Smith.

"It’s despicable the way they are using 911 to justify their behavior," Talamo said. He cited the party’s permit application, which does not mention 911 or charity, submitted to the Parks Dept. The online application, which was denied, describes a "Fourth of July (so­cial) party- traditional hot dogs and hamburgers to be prepared by on-site barbecue, beer and soda/ water served to guests, may erect a tent, umbrella and tables for food."

Talamo said those who were summonsed or arrested are using the tragedy to "retroactively excuse their behavior."

Noting other areas of the application that say participants will not be charged in any way, he asked, "How did they raise money [for charity]?"

But local victims of September 11 were on the minds of many party-goers. Palmer Doyle, who was there, said "The whole incident was disgraceful," adding that it was inappropriate "for 50 cops to Stormtroop the beach during a memorial for 12 people."

Another allegation is that police cracked down on this year’s party because last year’s went out of control. Talamo said that is true, but that crashing the party was good police work and not retribution.

Last year, Talamo said, late evening noise complaints were called in for the same location and when officers arrived they found more than 50 "drunk, disorderly and combative people." He said the group seemed "ready to fight" making proper enforcement of the law nearly impossible. Talamo said the success of any police department is connected to strategy, which is largely based on previous incidents. He suggested that ending this year’s party early allowed police to enforce the law while avoiding an "unsafe," and riotous environment.

McGoldrick said that if last year’s gathering was a problem it should have been addressed at that time.

Doyle asked, "Why come back the next year when you might not be dealing with the same group of people?" He called the crack down "payback for last year."

Both sides accuse each other of using foul language and being adversarial. Party-goers said the police seemed to have forgotten their creed of Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect. McGoldrick, who is a schoolteacher, told The Wave that the police behaved like bullies. She said one taunted her by suggesting that, if arrested, she would suffer great embarrassment at work.

Talamo said one man in the crowd told him to take off his badge and gun so they could brawl. He said he and other officers were cursed at. Verbal abuse is an "unfortunate hazards of police work," Talamo said.

Talamo commended his officers for handling themselves in a "restrained, professional manner."

Meanwhile, several men and women wearing the "Rockaway Remembers" shirts from the party were at this week’s "Take Back the Beach Rally." A party organizer, who had spoken with other news outlets, asked not to be identified and declined to comment to The Wave.

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