Posted by: vote4claxton | June 22, 2005


Growing Unease: Surge In Arrests Follows Cop Shooting

Police released this sketch of the shooter.

By Azi Paybarah
After a cop was shot with his own gun in Southeast Queens, police swept through the area, arresting 181 people in the 105th Precinct during a three-day span. People within and outside the community have raised questions regarding the action of police in the wake of the shooting.
Marquez Claxton (standing, l. to r.), Eric Adams and Councilman Leroy Comrie join Mryna Joseph (seated, l. to r.), Hussan Joseph, Normal Siegal, and Francis Payen, a 20-year-old from Elmont arrested when he crossed the Queens border, at a press conference. Photo by Juliet Kaye


The Queens District Attorney’s office said nearly half of the 181 arrests made during the three days immediately following the shooting last week were quality-of-life offenses.

Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and others have said black men in the area were being unfairly targeted. Hearing of the exact numbers of arrests, he said, “[It] only highlights what we were saying…To have so many people pulled in on quality-of-life and less criminal offenses is a precedent that will only hurt the relationship between the police and our community.”

Comrie declined to go so far as to describe the arrests as racially motivated.

The 105th Precinct averaged fewer than 10 arrests a day last year, according to New York Police Department statistics obtained by the Tribune.

“That’s a huge spike,” said Marquez Claxton, spokesman for Brooklyn-based 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. “If they did have that [arrest rate] normally, they’d be leading the Queens borough.” Claxton is a Laurelton resident who retired from the police force in February.
According to NYPD spokesman Jason Post, the arrests were above average for that precinct for that time period.
“There was a search underway for a suspect in the shooting of a police officer,” he said. “Most of the arrests are for drug possession.”

The officer, Christopher Wiesneski, was shot in the leg June 14, after pulling his gun on a marijuana smoker whom Wiesneski noticed was carrying a gun in his waistband. Wiesneski was shot in the leg, and the suspect fled.
Both Comrie and Claxton questioned Wiesneski’s account of the incident.

“I would hope his story is true,” said Comrie. “And that he did not attempt to cover up any action on his part by putting all young black people under unnecessary risk.”
The day Wiesneski was shot, police in the 105th Precinct arrested 93 people—43 of them for quality-of-life offenses. A total of 27 of those quality-of-life offenses were for marijuana possession. Six were for disorderly conduct and five were for the possession of a controlled substance.

On the following day 36 people were arrested – 22 of them for similar quality-of-life offenses. Those offenses included 13 for marijuana possession and one for obstruction of government administration. On June 16, 52 people were arrested, including 31 for quality-of-life offenses. Fifteen of those offenses were for the possession or sale of marijuana and 10 were for vehicle traffic law violations.

Reaction to the police response has been mixed.
“I have not heard of any problems,” said Rose Funderburk, president of the 105th Precinct Community Council, and local activist.

Myrna Joseph, who was in the hospital recovering from a mastectomy, said when her 20-year-old son didn’t come visit her as planned she knew he was in police custody. “We’ve been harassed so many times before,” said Joseph. Her son, Hussan, who was charged with disorderly conduct after police pulled over the car in which he was riding, had no police record, his mother said.

Civil Rights attorney Norman Siegel, who appeared at a press conference with the family, Comrie and others, said he may file a lawsuit against the police department for violating Joseph’s rights.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said he was looking into the situation. The 105th Precinct will hold its monthly public meeting June 29.

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