Criminal Justice :

5-26-12 march

WESPAC Foundation is concerned about the criminal justice system. We work in solidarity with other groups and organizations in Westchester County to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws, to eliminate racial profiling, and to address the structural and institutional biases inherent in our criminal justice system. We stand to permanently remove the death penalty as a legal option for the state, and we seek to significantly reduce the prison populations by working towards a more benevolent economic system that guarantees meaningful jobs and training at a living wage to all people.

The Benefits and Limits of Civilian Review Boards

The Benefits and Limits of Civilian Review Boards

Monday, April 3rd at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in White Plains, NY
6pm to 6:30pm light refreshments and networking
6:30pm panel begins promptly

An interactive panel discussion with law enforcement, members of the Albany and Syracuse Civilian Review Boards, and the President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement including:

  • Frank L. Fowler, Syracuse Chief of Police
  • Brian Corr, NACOLE President and Director of Cambridge, Mass. Police Review and Advisory Board
  • Ivy Morris, Vice Chair of Albany CPRB (Citizens’ Police Review Board)
  • Zach Garafalo, Albany CPRB
  • Mallory Livingston, Chair, Syracuse CRB
  • Yusuf Abdul Qadir, Director of the Syracuse Chapter of the NYCLU

Panel will be moderated by Law Professor David Dorfman at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.

This forum is organized and sponsored by the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform https://www.facebook.com/WCPRNY/ and is co-sponsored by the Pace Criminal Justice Institute. Seating capacity limited to 90 persons.  RSVPs required at [email protected] at which point room instructions will be given. 

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Frontpage, Movement Building, Racial Justice

Introducing the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform to the Yonkers Community

Introducing the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform to the Yonkers Community

Friday, February 10th at 2pm at the Yonkers Riverfront Library

1 Larkin Plaza in downtown Yonkers

This public forum is an introduction of the work of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform to the Yonkers Community. Speakers include: co-founder of the coalition Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., who lost his father in a police killing in the City of White Plains in 2011. Also, speaking will be the convener of the coalition, Rev. Doris Dalton, who is also the Executive Director of the Westchester MLK Institute for Nonviolence; Yonkers Community Organizer Hector Santiago and WCPR steering committee member Nada Khader who will speak about WCPR’s April forum on civilian oversight of local law enforcement.

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Movement Building, Racial Justice

Protecting Civil Liberties and Public Safety in an Age of Terror

issues-civil-liberties

Protecting Civil Liberties and Public Safety in an Age of Terror

 Monday, November 14th from 6pm to 8:30pm
Tudor Room at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
78 N Broadway, White Plains, NY 10603

A panel discussion to address public concern about potential terrorist activity and to review procedures that are in place intended to keep us safe while at the same time respecting the rule of law, constitutional rights and civil liberties.  Panelists will explore why protecting civil rights domestically is important to fighting terrorism. 

Panelists include:

Mariko Hirose, senior staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, with a focus on statewide civil rights and civil liberties impact litigation and on cases involving free speech, privacy, government transparency and criminal justice.

Chief Inspector John Hodges with the Westchester County Police Department’s counter-terrorism unit will review recent steps taken in regional security coordination and intelligence gathering.

Pace Law Professor Thomas McDonnell is an expert in international human rights, the law of war, and the war on terrorism.

The panel will be moderated by Pace Law Professor David Dorfman.

This event is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by the Lower Hudson Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Pace Criminal Justice Institute, WESPAC, the Westchester Coalition against Islamophobia and the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform.  For more information, please contact the Pace Criminal Justice Institute Director Lissa Griffin at [email protected].  Parking is available on campus for those attending this event.

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Frontpage, Militarism and Foreign Policy, Movement Building

When Police Unions Impede Justice

From The New York Times:

When Police Unions Impede Justice

It’s time to revise police contracts that make it almost impossible to bring officers to justice.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/04/opinion/sunday/when-police-unions-impede-justice.html?mwrsm=Email

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog

Hundreds Come Out in Support of Police Accountability

BLM 2

Hundreds Come Out in Support of Police Accountability 

By A. Surya Peterson

(Photos from this march available on WESPAC’s Facebook Page: Explore WESPAC)

Hundreds of people participated on Thursday, July 14th in a rally and march for justice in downtown White Plains, NY, organized by the White Plains Ministers Fellowship Council.  Reverend Lee Trollinger, the President of the White Plains Ministers Fellowship Council, served as the lead organizer and invited clergy and community leaders from all over Westchester County to participate.

 

The march started at the Calvary Baptist Church at 6:30pm where clergy led the large gathering of people in prayer.  Elected officials were among those present including the City of White Plains Mayor Roach, White Plains City Council members Nadine Hunt-Robinson and Milagros Lecuona, NYS Assembly member David Buchwald and NYS Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins.  People held signs from the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform that read: “Black Lives Matter”; “#ThisStopsToday”; “Stop Police Impunity”.  One large banner read: “White People for Black Lives”.

 

The first stop along the route was 135 South Lexington Avenue where WESPAC Director Nada Khader was invited to re-tell the story of the police killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr, in November 2011.  Rev. Lynn Dunn, Minister for Christian Education and Spiritual Formation at the White Plains Presbyterian Church led the gathering in prayer.  Kenny Lee, a retired White Plains Police Officer, played “Taps” in honor of the loving memory of former marine Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.

 

The marchers then stopped in front of the White Plains Department of Public Safety to hear from the White Plains Police Chief Anne FitzSimmons who recited the Saint Francis of Assisi prayer for peace and was also followed by Kenny Lee’s “Taps”.  The group then made its way to Court Street where the White Plains Police Department had cordoned off the section of the road and prepared a show mobile for the clergy speakers.

 

Reverend Franklyn Richardson of the historic Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon addressed the crowd.  Rev. Richardson is the Chairman of the National Action Network, an activist group founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton.  He offered some suggestions for addressing the state of racialized policing today.

 

Imam Ali from Yonkers, a religious cleric of the Islamic tradition, shared his vision of a brighter America where we will all live in unity and respect for one another.  He was followed by Reverend Kymberly McNair, the Minister of Community Education and Engagement at the Bedford Presbyterian Church, who shared with us the challenges in confronting institutional racism in our society.  

 

Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr, the son of police slain Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., spoke about the need for police accountability and reform.  He is a co-founder of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform of which members were very visible in the crowd.  The demands of this coalition include working to:

 

  • Establish independent oversight structures with subpoena power in order to review the policies and practices of law enforcement agencies, investigate cases of police misconduct, and impose sanctions.
  • Implement clear and current protocols within all police departments addressing the use of force continuum, as well as proper handling of emotionally troubled individuals, with an emphasis on deescalating confrontations without resorting to violence.
  • Make the rules and regulations of all police agencies available to the public.
  • Review and reform the training program of the Westchester Police Academy, with particular focus on proper means to deescalate situations through non-violent methods.
  • Centralize in-service police training to encourage sharing of best practices and reduce financial costs.
  • Expand the use of Crisis Intervention Teams throughout Westchester County.
  • Increase police department efforts to recruit from a diverse officer applicant pool, so that departments more accurately reflect the communities they serve. 
  • Reassess police department promotion policies in order to advance more African-American and Latino officers into positions of leadership.

 

State-level Demands:

 

  • Establish a special prosecutor to investigate and discipline police misconduct.
  • Create an independent entity to review the policies and practices of law enforcement agencies throughout the state and propose necessary reforms.
  • Require that all police interrogations be recorded.
  • Prohibit custodial arrests for violations – arrests where an officer has discretion to issue a summons or arrest an individual.
  • Close the loophole that treats possession of small amounts of marijuana differently depending on whether or not it is in public view – a citation versus a misdemeanor.

The next meeting of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform will take place on Thursday, July 28th at the Thomas H. Slater Center located at 2 Fisher Court in White Plains, NY, at 6:30pm.

 

The Director of the Thomas H. Slater Center, Heather Miller, spoke about the importance of voting and registering to vote.   She explained that the formerly incarcerated are allowed to vote in New York State and that part of making change is participating in the electoral process.

 

The last presentation was from Jirrell Abraham, a local poet and spoken word artist and member of the H.I.P.H.O.P. group  Highly Important People Healing Our Planet.  His performance is available on social media.

 

Several community organizations were present for the march including the Westchester Martin Luther King Institute for Nonviolence (the MLK Institute convenes the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform), the Urban League of Westchester, the Anti Racist Alliance of Westchester, the African American Men Of Westchester, the Theodore Young Community Center, the Loft LGBT Community Center,  Mount Vernon Tenants Association, Westchester Disabled on the Move, WESPAC, Hope’s Door and several more.  Families came out with children on their strollers and members of the Police Guardians Association were with us on motorcycles.  We were just steps from where Westchester County Police accidentally killed Mount Vernon Detective Christopher Ridley in a scuffle outside of 85 Court Street in January of 2008.

The march and gathering represent a significant step towards improving police and community relations with greater accountability and transparency for all.

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Frontpage, Movement Building, Racial Justice

Justice for the Wrongfully Incarcerated

Harlem Walkers

Harlem Walkers to March through Westchester County to Highlight Plight of the Wrongfully Convicted

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

For more information, please contact Neekee West at 646.684.1013

Over 90 people have registered to join family, friends and loved ones of the wrongfully convicted for an eight day march from Harlem to Albany starting on Mother’s Day, May 8th, 2016.  20 walkers are committed to walking for the whole eight days in order to highlight the plight of the wrongfully convicted and to demand specific legislative reforms found at http://justice4thewrongfullyincarcerated.org/what-we-demand/

(more…)

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Movement Building

WESPAC Intern Attends Local Conference

Imani McCalla is a Journalism Major at SUNY Purchase and has been interning this semester at WESPAC.  She recently attended the Westchester MLK Institute’s annual conference on Ending Violence, Building Hope and took the time to write an article about her experience.

“Rebuilding A Community And Reliving A Dream”
By Imani McCalla

Following years of civil unrest within black communities, Manhattanville College and staff joined Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for Nonviolence in their 17th annual Ending Violence, Building Hope community gathering this month to discuss tools for positive change.

Inspired by Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, the organization, since 1987, facilitates nonviolent action for social justice and promotes nonviolence as a way of life. (more…)

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Movement Building, Racial Justice

Evening of Political Prisoner and Trans Prisoner Support at WESPAC

Pol Prisoner Support

A group gathered the evening of Tuesday, January 26, 2016, focused on supporting parole for Herman Bell as well as for the First International Day of Action in Solidarity with Trans Prisoners.

We wrote birthday cards to former Black Panther Herman Bell (freehermanbell.org), who just turned 68 on January 14. We watched the moving 8 minute documentary about Herman by Freedom Archives https://vimeo.com/51465733 and discussed our personal experiences and feelings around the prison system.

We wrote to trans prisoners, affirming our solidarity and support, as part of the First International Day of Action in Solidarity with Trans Prisoners, which took place January 22.

We learned more about the case of Rev. Joy Powell http://freejoypowell.org/, a political prisoner held in Bedford Women’s Prison, located in Westchester County, New York.

We wrote to other political prisoners including Jalil Muntaqim http://www.freejalil.com/ and we discussed how to push for passage of the SAFE Parole Act  http://www.parolereformnow.org/ which would reform the parole process.

It was a good night and we look forward to continuing the work locally on these issues. The night was sponsored by WESPAC Foundation and the Victory Bus Project and took place at WESPAC’s office in White Plains. #FreeEmAll

Posted in Blogs, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Movement Building, Racial Justice

Please support WESPAC’s 2015 Membership Drive!

Membership 1Membership 2

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Community Gardening, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Environmental and Food Justice, Friends of Turtle Island, Immigration, Movement Building, Racial Justice

WESPAC Open House and Prisoner Writing

We are writing to invite you all to see our new space located on the fourth floor of the Westchester Arts Council building in downtown White Plains
at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue on Monday, July 20th from 1pm to 5pm.

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Environmental and Food Justice, Movement Building, Racial Justice