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Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.

The Rev. Jeffery Wheeler, left, speaks as Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. of White Plains holds a photo of his father, Kenneth Chamberlain, while a group prays in front of his father’s apartment building on Lexington Avenue in White Plains

Following a pattern of racial slurs and racial abuse by members of New York's White Plains Police Department, the Attorney General definitively proved that they cannot indict a ham sandwich (as the old adage goes). After 68-year-old Marine Kenneth Chamberlain told police he was alright, over the course of 15 minutes, they finally broke in his door and killed him immediately. It is captured on police video.

Is LifeAid liable? The call began when Chamberlain’s LifeAid alert accidentally went off. The company chose to contract with local police to intervene. If prior racial incidents were not enough to put LifeAid on notice of potential for trouble, this incident should cause them to question if they can afford to send the police to respond to a “Good Samaritan” request. The LifeAid dispatcher, at first, was repeatedly asking Chamberlain to open the door and tell the police he is alright. After a 15-minute exchange, all captured on audio, clearly the police were not taking “No” for an answer- including the response that “I don’t give a F#@k Ni**er.”

Initially, the police said Mr. Chamberlain had a hatchet, and now they say it was a butter knife. Are we hiring police who are in fear for their lives of grandfathers in their boxer shorts? If local residents had broken down Chamberlain’s door to save his life, they would not be charged with breaking and entering. If they broke it down after an exchange like this? If they shot him, despite their superior force, after breaking down the door? Mr. Chamberlain would not have been charged if he shot a citizen who broke down his door, especially one who used racial slurs towards him. This man called the police for help, from the police.

LifeAid tried cancelling the call. Chamberlain’s sister tried to intervene. Clearly, nothing was going to stop the White Plains Police Department from breaking into Kenneth Chamberlain’s home, and based on the video, people can make their own determinations if anything could have saved this man from being shot.

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The secret grand jury process did not issue an indictment.After this decision, the police released this audio and video -- there is no indication if the grand jury members had access to any of this information. The Attorney General need not have pursued this process, and the decision need not stand. Traditionally, new evidence always authorizes a fresh investigation. Considering as no police officers were ever charged with anything, double jeopardy protections do not come into play.

Calls have been made for a Federal probe, and they need only expand the current racial abuse probe of these same officers. Naturally, some will say: “I just don’t see how this thing is about ‘race’!”

Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. is the face of our American veterans: Living in public housing, senior citizen, medical alert around his neck, possibly with the mental issues that are common amongst seniors and vets. If this is not about race, then perhaps it is about how we “Support the Troops.” Regardless of one’s political ideology, behavior such as this cannot be treated as a “mistake,” not while we continue to pay these people out of the public funds.

bruce reilly

Bruce Reilly

Posted: Saturday, 5 May 2012