Syracuse, NY - On July 22, 2015, 20 year old Elijah Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced in Onondaga County Court for an April 2014 incident in which Johnson sustained injuries from a violent encounter with Syracuse Police officers. Johnson’s case is pending review by the Citizen’s Review Board (CRB) which is investigating allegations of excessive force and racial profiling by four Syracuse police officers.
Syracuse City Council Candidate Frank Cetera responded to the case with concern that the CRB’s recommendation for the City to revise its current Use of Force Policy has gone unheeded.
“The Citizens Review Board was created as a mechanism to hold police officers accountable to Syracuse residents,” said Cetera. “Based on the CRB’s observations from 2013 to 2014, police misconduct is on the rise and this is troubling. Use of force by police officers has increased. Untrue statements by police officers facing allegations have increased. Allegations of citizen harassment by police have increased. The citizens of Syracuse deserve a process which holds police officers accountable to the public interest. Police violence against civilians is a serious matter and we must give the CRB more teeth. More over, the Syracuse Police Department should be required to share information of if and how CRB recommendations were implemented.”
According to the CRB’s 2014 Annual Report, in 2014 the Syracuse Chief of Police imposed discipline in only one case sustained by the CRB. Currently, the police department is not required to disclose disciplinary actions towards officers accused of using excessive force against civilians. For the cases in which the Chief’s disciplinary decision is known, the disciplinary action rate was a mere 6%, effectively responding to one out of sixteen recommendations from the CRB. http://www.syrgov.net/uploadedFiles/City_Hall/CRB/2014%20Annual%20and%204th%20Quarter%20Report.pdf
The U.S. Department of Justice has provided recommendations based upon consent decrees reached with other cities, and many in Syracuse are calling for an adoption of these recommendations in a revised Use of Force Policy.
“Law enforcement officers enforce the law, not react with prejudice or with force excessive to cause,” stated Cetera. “It is our responsibility as a community, and more importantly of city government, to make sure the proper policies and procedures are in place to guide our officers in the sort of policing that keeps our community safe. We need trust between police officers and residents. Allowing impunity for incidents of police brutality severely erodes that trust ”
Elijah Johnson, a young black man from Liverpool, was brutally beaten by four Syracuse police officers last summer after attending a party on the Syracuse University Hill. Johnson was punched, kicked and called racial slurs. He suffered a broken nose, a burst blood vessel in his right eye, a large abrasion on his right cheek and head pain. While police claimed he threw a rock at them and resisted arrest, in court the jury did not find their story believable. Elijah was acquitted of the misdemeanors inciting a riot, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. He was found guilty of second-degree rioting and second-degree criminal trespass. He will be sentenced by Judge Karen Uplinger.
Frank Cetera lives on Syracuse’s Westside and is running to represent Syracuse’s 2nd District on the Common Council. Cetera will appear on Line D on the General Election ballot on Tuesday November 3rd. Major issues in Frank Cetera’s campaign are: raising wages; local job development through worker-owned cooperatives and local hiring requirements; and community safety through community engagement and responsive government.
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