October 12, 2023
Mayor Eric Adams
New York, NY 10007
NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban
1 Police Plaza
New York, NY 10038
Re: Discipline of officers who killed Kawaski Trawick
Dear Mayor Adams and Commissioner Caban,
As family members of New Yorkers killed by the NYPD and local and national organizations who work for the safety and well-being of diverse communities, we’re concerned by recent news that an NYPD deputy commissioner drafted a recommendation for Commissioner Caban to dismiss discipline charges against both Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis for their killing of Kawaski Trawick, a Black gay man who was cooking at home when he was killed. We’re concerned that this may reflect what seems to be an ongoing pattern under the current administration to downgrade discipline for serious police misconduct and weaken the NYPD disciplinary process.
It's been over four years since Officers Thompson and Davis broke the chain on Kawaski Trawick’s door, refused to answer why they were in his home, tased, shot and killed him – in a matter of 112 seconds. Neither officer attempted to provide aid. In fact, at one point, Davis held the door shut while Mr. Trawick bled out on the other side.
The 17 families of New Yorkers killed by police and 53 organizations sending this letter stand with the Trawick family to call on you to fire both Officers Thompson and Davis. Thompson & Davis’ misconduct created a crisis where there was none. Their unnecessary escalation of that crisis and violation of their training and Patrol Guide procedures resulted in the unwarranted death of Mr. Trawick.
We also support Mrs. & Mr. Trawick’s request to meet with Mayor Adams before a final disciplinary decision is made. The Trawicks have repeatedly shared their dismay that the Mayor has never said their son’s name in public – in spite of the Thompson/Davis discipline proceeding being the highest profile administrative trial during the current administration. We’re concerned that the Trawicks have never heard from the Mayor or received acknowledgment from the administration of a letter they hand-delivered with elected officials for the Mayor at the conclusion of the discipline trial in May (enclosed with this letter). In light of Mayor Adams’ statement last week that “This is the first time that I'm learning that there was a delay in turning over video,” we believe the Trawicks and their team should have the opportunity to fully brief the Mayor on the four years of NYPD obstruction and delays the Trawicks and New Yorkers have had to endure – before Commissioner Caban makes a final discipline decision. As James Blake, wrote in the Daily News, “That doesn’t seem like too much to ask”.
The possibility that Officers Thompson & Davis may face zero disciplinary consequences for their killing of Kawaski Trawick is wrong and sends the message that when NYPD officers kill New Yorkers and when the NYPD delays and obstructs investigations, the NYPD and officers who engage in misconduct will be shielded from consequences for wrongdoing. This is not only bad policy – it promotes the dangerous and anti-democratic idea that the NYPD should be allowed to operate with impunity and will not be held accountable.
The list of delays and obstruction by the NYPD since 2019 related to Kawaski Trawick is too long to list here, but includes:
Obstructing the CCRB investigation by refusing to turn over body camera footage to CCRB for 21 months (until January 2021).
Illegally refusing to release full footage of the killing until ordered to by a judge, and then being fined over $80,000 for the delay. Footage revealed that when a sergeant arrived and asked who was injured, officers responded “Nobody. Just a perp”.
Running a faulty investigation designed to shield officers from discipline. Files from the NYPD Force Investigation Division (FID) investigation reveal that Thompson and Davis were interviewed for less than 30 minutes each. They were asked about the weather -- but not about the video, why they violated their training and NYPD procedure, false statements, or when their statements contradicted each other or the video.
Splitting the discipline trial and changing the dates just weeks before the start date, to accommodate vacation plans of the FID head who wanted to testify for the officers – in spite of the fact that the dates had been scheduled since fall of 2022. At the pre-trial hearing where this was decided, it was also revealed that the NYPD had still not turned over all evidence to CCRB.
On the 4 year anniversary of the killing of Kawaski, and just a week before the trial was scheduled to start, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Maldonado improperly attempted to dismiss the illegal entry misconduct charges against both officers. 50 city and state elected officials rapidly responded to denounce this miscarriage of justice & request that the charges be heard during the discipline proceeding as planned. While the CCRB was able to present on this charge during the trial, the DCT omitted all relevant evidence and argument from her draft report, referring only to her prior improper pre-trial dismissal – as if it had never happened.
On the last day of testimony, the DCT took the extraordinary step of trying to cancel oral closing summations, after the trial started to expose wrongdoing not only of Thompson and Davis but also the NYPD investigation – even though she had stated weeks prior that both oral and written summations would proceed.
The latest move to try to cancel any discipline for Officers Thompson and Davis is wrong. We urge you to reject any such recommendation and move to fire Thompson and Davis swiftly, without “good guy letters”.
Given the significant misconduct by Thompson, Davis and the NYPD related to this case, we urge Mayor Adams to meet with the Trawicks and their team as requested – before a final discipline decision is made.
We would appreciate acknowledgment of this letter. Arrangements for the Mayor to meet with the Trawicks and their team should be made through the Justice Committee.
Darlene Armstead, sister of Clifford Glover (killed by NYPD in 1978)
Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah (killed by NYPD in 2012) Iris & Mercy Baez, mother and cousin of Anthony Baez (killed by NYPD in 1994)
Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell (killed by NYPD in 2006) Victor Dempsey, brother of Delrawn Small (killed by NYPD in 2016)
Natasha Duncan & Angie Hicks, sister and aunt of Shantel Davis (killed by NYPD in 2012)
Samy Feliz, brother of Allan Feliz killed by NYPD in 2019 Gwen Carr & Ellisha Garner, mother & sister of Eric Garner (killed by NYPD in 2014)
Carol Gray, mother of Kimani Gray (killed by NYPD in 2013)
Joyce Huang, sister of Yong Xin Huang (killed by NYPD in 1995)
Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham (killed by NYPD in 2012) Nancy Pacheco, sister-in-law of Jayson Tirado (killed by NYPD in 2007)
Hertencia Petersen, aunt of Akai Gurley (killed by NYPD in 2014) Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario & aunt of Hilton Vega (killed by NYPD in 1995)
Eric Vassell, father of Saheed Vassell (killed by NYPD in 2018) Shawn & Gladys Williams, father & stepmother of Antonio Williams (killed by NYPD in 2019)
Communities United for Police Reform
Make the Road NY
New York City Anti-Violence Project
Audre Lorde Project
Showing Up for Racial Justice NYC
5 Borough Defenders
Alliance for Quality Education
Arab American Association of New York
Black Jewish Liberation Collective (BJLC)
Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
Caribbean Equality Project
Center for Anti-Violence Education
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Popular Democracy
Citizen Action of New York
Color Of Change
Community for a Cause
Community Voices Heard
Defending Rights & Dissent
Drug Policy Alliance
DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving
Equality for Flatbush
Future of Tomorrow
Gathering for Justice/Justice League NYC
The Human Rights Campaign
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice
Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn
Legal Action Center
Legal Aid Society
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Mothers on the Move
National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City
New Kings Democrats
New Pride Agenda
Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition
Public Science Project
Surveillance Resistance Lab
Transgender Law Center
Urban Youth Collaborative
cc: NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams
NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams
CCRB Chair Arva Rice; CCRB ED Jonathan Darche
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks