House committee meets on Bell verdict

May 12, 2008 4:49:57 PM PDT
The NYPD's aggressive policing tactics came under fire Monday.Members of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing in New York City following the acquittal of three detectives in the shooting of Sean Bell.

Eyewitness News reporter Nina Pineda has the story.

Distrust in the justice system following an incident like the shooting of Bell is not a new problem for New York City, nor is it a problem specific to New York City. But it is the catalyst for the House Judiciary Committee to bring their forum to Lower Manhattan. As one member put it, they are here to show that the federal government is involved in the case.

Excessive police force, racial profiling and the independence of local prosecutors are the three issues the House Judiciary Committee is examining to determine how to proceed on a federal level with the legacy of Sean Bell.

"This committee, this delegation, will insist that the Justice Department pursue a comprehensive, fair and expeditious investigation of this case," New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler said.

Testifying witnesses implored the U.S. representatives to begin federal oversight of police patterns and practices, not just in New York City, but in any city where public confidence in law enforcement is questioned.

"The charge of manslaughter, assault and even reckless endangerment were all dismissed," New York NAACP president Hazel Dukes said.

"We had more respect and cooperation with your committee from people in Jena, Louisiana, than police officials today," the Reverend Al Sharpton said. "Because they don't take you seriously."

Sharpton and some members of the panel criticized police Commissioner Ray Kelly repeatedly for not participating in today's forum, but the NYPD said Kelly was never invited to attend this precedent to hearings on Capitol Hill.

"I've never had my staff misrepresent or tell me that they had invited somebody and they really hadn't invited them," House Judiciary Committee chaiman John Conyers said.

Regardless, Conyers told the family of Sean Bell that the committee will proceed to find solutions. Members made it clear the verdicts did not end the debate.

"The verdict was kind of in the middle of the conversation," Congressman Anthony Weiner said. "What we're trying to do now is push it further."

The committee is going to review the recommendations from the many expert witnesses they heard from. Then, Conyers will decide when to convene the hearing. He will also decide who to subpoena to attend.