Allegations of police brutality in NYPD-Yonkers dispute

March 9, 2010 2:43:20 PM PST
There are allegations of police brutality with racial overtones sparking controversy in Yonkers. A New York City cop, an African-American out of uniform at the time, says he was assaulted by two cops from Yonkers, both white and in uniform.

But it's the New York City officer who is now facing charges.

Kenneth Kissiedu is an NYPD sergeant and a criminal defendant. The 16-year veteran was arrested last month by Yonkers police for obstructing governmental administration.

Kissiedu was walking to his car after withdrawing money from the same ATM where a woman had just gotten her purse snatched. He was on his way to work the midnight shift in the Bronx when he was stopped by officers who say he fit the suspect's description.

"The onus is on the uniformed officers to step back, give clear commands of what you're looking for, not just grab people, beat them up and find out that they are officers and lock them up," said Corey Pegues, of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Several black law enforcement groups turned out Tuesday in support of Kissiedu, who was thrown to the ground and slightly injured his hand. He was cuffed before police found his ID and shield in his pocket. But the head of the Yonkers police union says Kissiedu largely brought it upon himself.

"He, as an officer, should know better than anybody how to handle these things," Yonkers PBA president Keith Olson said. "He refused to cooperate. He was belligerent. He cursed at the officers."

Critics say the incident is another strike against the Yonkers Police Department, which is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation. While the Department of Justice has so far found no systemic pattern of abuse, it did issue a number of recommendations, such as updating and improving policies.

Some say the only answer is for a federal monitor to be appointed.

"It's thuggery in Yonkers, and it really needs vigilance and strong oversight," said Karen Edmundson, of the Yonkers NAACP. "I don't think this police commissioner can make it happen."

Commissioner Edmund Hartnett naturally sees things differently.

"When you take our cooperation with the (Department of Justice), coupled with things like the precipitous drop in the number of complaints against Yonkers police officers, I think it shows that we do not warrant any kind of a federal monitor here."