CCRB Substantiates Police Abuse of Harlem Youth, Bystander and Copwatcher Mercedes Pope
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 13, 2022––Today, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) concluded their investigation into Officers Alberto Chardy and Duchatellier substantiating three charges of excessive force, two charges of discourtesy, and one charge of making a misleading statement against Alberto, and two charges of discourtesy against Duchatellier. The charges stem from a two-year-old incident in which the officers, under the guise of COVID-19 restrictions enforcement, unnecessarily stopped, harassed, and pepper-sprayed youth in Harlem and CopWatcher Mercedes Pope.
After meeting with CCRB, Mercedes was joined by the Justice Committee, elected officials, public defenders, and community organizations on City Hall Steps for a rally calling on the city to fire the officers involved and uplifting the importance of monitoring and documenting police activity, enlight of Mayor Eric Adams’ heavy-handed approach to public safety.
“As long as abusive officers are not held accountable, the NYPD will continue to abuse us and violate our rights, as these officers did with me when I tried to exercise my right to CopWatch,” Mercedes Pope said. “Mayor Adams and Commissioner Sewell must fire Officers Alberto and Duchatellier. What these officers did to me caused a lot of trauma for me. They are a threat to public safety, and I want to make sure they cannot brutalize anyone else.”
On April 4, 2020, Mercedes stopped to observe Officers Chardy and Duchatellier harass and abuse youth in Harlem. Before Mercedes could even take her phone out to video and document the abuse, Officer Alberto Chardy pepper-sprayed her and the youth and left without making any arrests. This type of police abuse is routine and illustrates both the need for CopWatching and the type of retaliation by the NYPD against those who practice their constitutional right to monitor and document police activity.
“Monitoring and documenting police activity is not only our constitutional right but an essential practice in our movement to end police violence,” said Monifa Akowe-Halsey, of MXGM. “As an organization that has been uplifting and teaching the practice of CopWatch for decades, we commend Mercedes for courageously stepping up to CopWatch in an effort to protect her neighbors from abusive policing. And we stand with Mercedes to demand that Mayor Adams and Commissioner Sewell fire Officers Alberto and Duchatellier for violating Mercedes’ rights and abusing the youth in her community. We cannot let the NYPD continue to harass and brutalize CopWatchers.”
Despite it being a constitutionally protected practice, Mayor Eric Adams has spoken out against those who monitor and document the police. In March of 2022, Adams said filming the police has “gotten out of control” and that it “won’t continue to happen.” Adams’ approach to public safety has been an over-reliance on policing and criminalization. This has been evident through Mayor Adams’ revamp of the plainclothes Anti-Crime Unit (rebranded as the “Neighborhood Safety Teams”), flooding of officers into communities of color and the subways, and support of Broken Windows Policing. For this reason, CopWatching is more necessary than ever to hold police accountable and build safety in our communities.
“I stand in support to demand officers Alberto and Duchatellier be held accountable,” said Council Member Alexa Avilés. “This administration has made it clear that policing is their priority when it comes to public safety, and what I have to say is that we’ll be watching. It is our right to observe police activity and to interrupt cycles of violence. We need true police accountability and transparency. No one is above the law.”
The rally was held as the City Council prepares to vote on the City’s FY23 budget, which includes $11.2 million for the NYPD.
“CopWatch is more important now than ever as we expect the City Council and Mayor to push forward the largest NYPD budget ever in their FY23 budget vote tonight,” said Gabrielle Cuesta, representative of the Justice Committee. “The kind of abuse Mercedes faced is routine and it will only intensify as long as abusive cops are not held accountable and the NYPD’s scope, power, and budget continues to expand. Funding police violence will not make New Yorkers safer. Ensuring our communities have the resources that what we need to thrive, will.”
SPEAKERS & LOCAL PARTNERS:
Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan
Councilmember Alexa Avilés LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Legal Aid Society
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Equality for Flatbush
First Deputy of the Public Advocate
NYC Comptroller Brad Lander
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams:
“Every New Yorker has the right and ability to record their interactions with police officers. This right was codified into law when the city enacted my Right to Record Act in 2020, and this fundamental right is essential to create and build a city that is safe for everyone. We cannot and will not give into the false notion that communities must choose between accountability and transparency in policing or safer streets.”
Comptroller Brad Lander:
"All New Yorkers have the right to monitor and document police activity and should not be intimidated from exercising that right to call out misconduct. Too often it is bystander documentation, like what Mercedes tried to do, that we rely on to provide transparency around police misconduct. Without it, our shared task of demanding accountability for misconduct and advancing community safety would be so much harder.”
Andrew Case, LatinoJustice:
“Mercedes’s case provides a test on whether the NYPD has finally decided to start disciplining abusive cops. When LatinoJustice PRLDEF examined data earlier this year, we found that the NYPD did not fire any of the 181 officers that the CCRB found lied – and the CCRB found that one of the cops who unjustly pepper-sprayed Mercedes also misled the agency in his interview. We cannot allow Mercedes’s case to be yet another instance of proven misconduct ignored by the NYPD. Without accountability, these officers will continue to abuse New Yorkers and make misleading or false statements with impunity.”
Tina Luongo, Legal Aid Society:
“As public defenders, we have seen far too many cases like that of Mercedes Pope, where New Yorkers who are exercising their right to record the police are retaliated against by the very officers whom they are filming," said Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Defense Practice. "We call on Mayor Adams to keep his campaign promise of holding abusive cops accountable and ensure swift discipline for officers who retaliate against people helping out their fellow New Yorkers by observing and recording the police, including the officers who wrongfully pepper-sprayed Mercedes."
Imani Henry, Equality for Flatbush:
“We need more people like Mercedes out there documenting police activity in order to keep our people safe. Eric Adams is so angry about people demonstrating their constitutional right to CopWatch instead of making sure the NYPD stops brutalizing and murdering Black and Latinx New Yorkers. We thank Mercedes for being on the right side of justice.”
About Justice Committee: Since the 1980s, the Justice Committee (JC) has been dedicated to building a movement against police violence and systemic racism in New York City. The heart of our work is organizing and uplifting the leadership of families who have lost loved ones to the police and survivors of police violence. We empower our community to deter police violence, hold law enforcement accountable, and build people-led community safety through grassroots organizing campaigns, community empowerment, political education, our CopWatch program, and by developing safety mechanisms and projects that decrease reliance on police. By building solidarity with other anti-racist, immigrant and people of color-led organizations, the Justice Committee seeks to contribute to a broad-based movement for racial, social, and economic justice.