2007-06-01 / Community

Smith Hosts Hearings On NYPD Shooting Procedures

New York State Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm A. Smith, who represents Rockaway, has convened the third-in-a-series of public forums to gather expert and community testimony on proposed changes to police policy and protocol. The hearing of the Tri-Level Legislative Task Force on Police Procedures, held Wednesday at HOSTOS College in the Bronx, concludes the hearings scheduled for this season.

"So far at these hearings we have heard serious public concerns about how the police and the minority community interact. We are also encouraged through expert testimonies that positive change can occur to improve the working relationship between the police and the community," said Senator Smith. "While much work needs to be done on the part of law enforcement in terms of protocol for discharging a weapon, we have come a long way during the course of these last three hearings to create a better atmosphere of awareness."

Among those testifying at today's hearing included: Mark Claxton, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement; Charles Billups and Aaron Jackson, Grand Council of Guardians; KJ Rhee, Youth Activist, and Dr. Divine Pryor, Criminologist.

The Task Force includes Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm A. Smith, Congressman Charles Rangel, Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. Other members include State Senators Shirley Huntley and Eric Adams, Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, Assemblymen Ruben Diaz, Jr., and William Scarborough, New York City Councilmen Leroy Comrie and Thomas White, Jr.

While celebrating his bachelor party with friends on November 25, Sean Bell was fatally shot by undercover police officers outside a Jamaica nightclub. Two of Bell's companions, Trent Benefield and Joe Guzman, were also injured.

According to media reports, police suspected that someone in Bell's group was carrying a gun, prompting them to open fire on the men's vehicle, discharging a total of 50 shots. Police never found a weapon in connection with the incident. The Bell shooting which raised serious questions about police procedures led to the formation of the Tri-Level Legislative Task Force.

"Our City's law enforcement system is not perfect," Senator Smith said, "The question now is what comes next. There are a few things we know for certain. We must continue the dialogue between the City's law enforcement officials and community leaders and commit to making the necessary changes to avoid another tragedy like what befell Sean Bell."

The Task Force plans to reconvene in the fall, Senator Smith added.

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