What if, as a lawyer, customer service representative, or whatever position you’re in, you forgot to record your interactions with a client 19 times? Say you somehow failed to keep an accurate record 30 times. Imagine you are an accountant and you’ve incorrectly filed tax documents 15 times. What would the repercussions be at your job? Surely there would be some, right?
Seemingly, police are allowed to make numerous infractions–even to the point of accidentally taking a life without repercussion. In New Rochelle, Kamal Flowers was shot and killed by New Rochelle Police Department Officer Alec McKenna June 5th, 2020, 6 years after Eric Garner was killed by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. On Friday, March 5th, a portion of Officer McKenna’s disciplinary record was released to the public, as the City concluded its investigation and determined McKenna did not violate any departmental procedures during the fatal encounter with Kamal.
McKenna’s violations were numerous in 2019 and as punishment he was forced to forfeit 7 vacation days for a lengthy list of violations that occurred between June 23rd 2019 and August 24th 2019. This is a little less than one year before he would take Kamal’s life. The internal investigation revealed that McKenna failed to log into the in-car camera system or accurately classify vehicle stops 19 times; he failed to record and provide complete documentation of traffic stops 30 times; he failed to call out vehicle stops 31 times; he did not file receipts for contraband taken during stops 12 times; he turned off his in-car camera microphone during stops 14 times; and on one occasion he failed to “accurately reflect information obtained during an investigation into the report narrative for the event.” And this is not all of the violations cited in the recently released record – which may not be a complete record since he was hired in 2015.
Prior to killing black civilians, both McKenna and Pantaleo had citations in their disciplinary records that showed a pattern of breaking departmental rules. Both officers were given ‘slaps on the wrist’ in the form of lost vacation days as punishment for their violations; and both officers killed black men extrajudicially shortly after the violations or complaints were lodged in their records. Neither officer’s disciplinary record was available to the public prior to or immediately after their offenses. Grand Juries failed to indict either officer, and their respective police departments kept them on the force. In the case of Pantaleo, he was not fired until August 2019 and McKenna is still on the force in New Rochelle, albeit on administrative leave.
The NRPD and City leadership failed to protect the public from Officer McKenna after learning of the numerous times he violated existing policies and procedures. With so many violations in such a short period of time, the fact that McKenna still had the authority to stop citizens, especially while armed, is truly alarming. Who knows what other violations he committed outside of the dates of this particular investigation? Moreover, how could this officer’s words be trusted? With so many citations of his inability or unwillingness to accurately record events, and a precedent of making up a false narrative at a traffic stop, why should we believe the gun Kamal allegedly had was not planted by McKenna? Remember when Officer Michael Slager shot Walter Scott in the back and then dropped his taser next to Scott’s lifeless body? Unfortunately, there is a horrifically long list of instances where officers have planted guns, tasers, drugs, and other paraphernalia on suspects in order to exonerate themselves of wrongdoing, see for yourself. Why should we believe that McKenna’s propensity for non-compliant behavior stopped after his 2019 infractions? Is his account of the stop, the chase, and the shooting of Kamal trustworthy at all? Can we trust PD leadership, particularly the commissioner and deputy commissioner, to protect and serve us after they allowed this officer to continue making traffic stops despite his rogue tendencies?
Perhaps if there were a Civilian Complaint Review Board in New Rochelle, we would know if there were complaints lodged against Officer McKenna leading up to him killing Kamal Flowers. There were 17 complaints lodged against Officer Pantaleo before he killed Eric Garner, and that is known because New York City has a CCRB. Perhaps if the NR City Council created a civilian oversight structure, it could weed out rogue officers before they assault or kill civilians. Another black civilian was assaulted by an off-duty NR police officer just 2 weeks ago. A CCRB is necessary to eliminate non-compliant officers and create a more transparent, fair, and accountable policing system.
You can speak up about the need for a CCRB by registering for the Tuesday March 9th hearing.