SCHENECTADY — The county Human Rights Commission said they’re “saddened and infuriated” over the encounter that resulted in a city police officer kneel on a suspect and punch him a half-dozen times before taking him into custody on Monday.
“Our country has been in civil unrest since May when George Floyd was murdered by police using the same dangerous tactics,” said Acting Chairman Omar McGill. “The mere fact that we have to continue to speak on this issue, after new legislation Gov. Andrew Cuomo and an executive order signed by Mayor Gary McCarthy to ban chokeholds of any kind, is completely unacceptable.”
A nine-minute video released Monday revealed Yugeshwar Gaindarpersaud struggling under the knee of an officer at his North Brandywine Avenue home after being accused of fleeing when questioned by police about slashing his neighbors tires.
At one point, the officer punched Gaindarpersaud six times in the torso to subdue him.
The video drew swift condemnation from activists, who noted the parallels with Floyd's death, who died in May after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, igniting international protests and a national reckoning on systemic racism and police brutality.
Gaindarpersaud said the officer had his knee on his neck, a technique that was banned in the city last month.
City Police Chief Eric Clifford contends the officer had his knee on his head, which is not illegal and was necessary to retain him.
City police have launched an internal probe and have pledged a “fair, impartial and transparent” investigation.
Clifford defended the officer’s actions on Tuesday in a lengthy statement backed by McCarthy and Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens, who determined that it was important to get some “known facts communicated to the public immediately.”
The county Human Rights Commission echoed the need for an investigation and called for the officer, who has not been identified, to be fired if determined to have used “unlawful restraint tactics.”
“There is no need for excessive force, nor the police brutality which has plagued our communities for far too long,” McGill said. “Our citizens should feel protected by the police. They should not feel threatened by the possibility of being beaten or even killed by them.”
Clifford said body camera footage may be released as early as Wednesday.
Gaindarpersaud was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.