Schenectady Police Chief Brian Kilcullen says the department is investigating an incident of alleged excessive force but that he believes the officer’s actions were justified.
A Schenectady man is accusing police of using excessive force by pepper-spraying and Tasing him last week in Mont Pleasant after he was accused of jaywalking and resisting arrest.
“The real issue is he was being placed under arrest and should have complied with the officer’s commands,” Kilcullen said. “It constitutes with our policy to use our Taser when there is overly resistance to arrest.”
The man arrested, Shaquille Parker, 22, of Forest Road, has not filed a formal complaint regarding the incident.
He was charged with felony second-degree assault, misdemeanor resisting arrest, and violation-level disorderly conduct and marijuana possession.
“We’re doing an internal investigation,” Kilcullen said. “We require a use-of-force form to be completed with any officer who uses force. Mr. Parker has not made a complaint to us, though. In terms of his activity for which he was charged, that will be taken care of in court.”
Kilcullen said Sgt. Dean DeMartino suffered minor injuries from the struggle with Parker, including a knee injury and a broken finger, resulting in Parker’s felony second-degree assault charge.
Police have had an increased presence in the area of Main Avenue and Crane Street, where the incident occurred, after complaints of drug deals, Kilcullen said.
“We have had, over time, many, many complaints of drug dealing and illicit activity going on there, where people there for legitimate purposes were being approached by drug dealers,” he said. “We increased our presence to deal with those constant complaints.”
Kilcullen said the officer was walking his beat when he saw Parker jaywalking, disrupting traffic.
Parker told The Daily Gazette there were no cars coming when he crossed and that he crossed in front of a bus, whose driver motioned him to. Parker said he stopped for the officer and gave his identification when asked.
The officer then requested to search him, Parker said, but Parker refused. Parker said he then started to walk away and the officer followed. He said he was pepper-sprayed a short time later. Other officers converged and he was sprayed again and Tasered. Later portions of the incident were caught on video.
“The actual charge was disorderly conduct where the individual disrupts traffic. That’s the underlying charge,” Kilcullen said. “Everything else came from that, like the resisting arrest.”
After Parker was in custody, police searched him and discovered he was in possession of marijuana. Parker works at The Daily Gazette as a mailroom inserter.
As part of the department’s internal investigation, Kilcullen said provided video along with surveillance cameras and police cars’ cameras would be reviewed.
“The investigation is just beginning into the entire matter,” he said. “We have camera footage, much more camera footage than what’s on [The Daily Gazette’s] website that captures the incident.”
Mayor Gary McCarthy said the information that’s public about the incident “is only half the story” and that it’s still being reviewed.
“The preliminary review indicates that there was justification for the action of the officers,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully we can clear this up in a fairly reasonable amount of time.”
Fred Clark of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said he’s concerned about the incident and is looking to set up a meeting with Kilcullen to discuss the issue.
Clark said he believes officers escalated the situation by insisting on the search of Parker.
“I have been pushing to enforce jaywalking but nothing has been done, and then one time they stop someone for jaywalking,” Clark said. “He had the right to say he didn’t want to be searched. The police stepped it up and took it to another level.”
City Councilman Vince Riggi said the underlying issue is noncompliance, and that the incident sends a message that all laws, including jaywalking, are strictly enforced.
“I was taught to comply with police and then let the courts determine if it was legal or not legal,” he said. “I think the key is compliance and that jaywalking is illegal, and probable cause for someone to be stopped. It’s not serious with all other crimes going on, but an officer has the right to approach you for that.”
Kilcullen said the department’s community police officers have dual roles as zone officers responding to calls in their neighborhood and also getting involved in neighborhood activities.
“They attend neighborhood association meetings and are involved in activities like cleanups,” he said. “The city has eight zones and we have one assigned officer to each zone.”
McCarthy said the goal of community policing is to deter crime in neighborhoods and develop a rapport with residents and businesses. The city is set to receive $165,000 in federal funding on July 1 for community policing.
Patricia Ann Smith, president of the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, said she appreciates the police presence in Mont Pleasant and believes they are doing a good job.
“They have been very accommodating and they still are,” she said. “There is a lot to deal with here. We’re trying to accentuate the positives in Mont Pleasant. Every neighborhood has their share of issues, but we appreciate their help to try and make it a safer place for residents to live.”
Smith said she believes criminal activity is high in areas of Mont Pleasant due to abandoned homes and problem landlords.
City Building Inspector Eric Shilling plans to speak at the neighborhood association’s meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Faith Deliverance Tabernacle Church at 1028 Ostrander Place.
“Some 2nd Avenue homes have been there for years falling apart and nothing is being done,” Smith said. “We have to force the banks to maintain these properties. We also have more houses than people can afford to rent.”