A Forest Hills woman is angry with the 112th Precinct for following her stepson late last Sunday as he walked home.
“None of this is surprising and sadly this young man is used to this treatment,” Natalie Dauphin wrote to Community Board 6, which held its monthly meeting online last Wednesday.
In a letter read during the meeting by board chairwoman Alexa Weitzman, Dauphin said her family has experienced racism during her eight years in the neighborhood, including a neighbor using the n-word, and feared for his life as officers confronted him after he got off the bus on Woodhaven Boulevard and walked home.
“We all know how confrontations between the police and black men end in this country,” Dauphin said.
Several others also wrote to the board, expressing outrage, and Weitzman read their letters too. The mother of the stopped man said, “The police are not safe for black people.”
Another friend of Dauphin’s, Samantha Jacobs, also wrote on the family’s behalf.
“As white people in this neighborhood, these are not things we ever have to think about and we are incredibly lucky, which allows us to miss the things actually going on,” she said.
Aleda Gagarin, a candidate for City Council in 2021, also wrote the board.
“He’s being terrorized for being black,” she said. “There’s no other way to put it. The saddest part is that this young man didn’t want to go to the precinct to file a complaint because he feels no one will do anything. This is all he’s ever known.”
Capt. Joseph Cappelmann, commanding officer of the 112th Precinct, told the board that there is another side to the story, saying he understands there’s “emotional attachment” to the situation but believes there is some misunderstanding about what really happened and that the other side will eventually come out.
“Before we race to condemn these officers and brand them as racists and racially profiling, I think a thorough investigation needs to be done and that includes the people that are involved in this incident, not the entire world,” he said, adding, “We’ve already convicted these officers in the court of public opinion without knowing the facts or the circumstances.”
The commander said he could not divulge all of the information he had because of an investigation but that some board members and letter writers were misinformed about the incident.
“I do have cameras all along Metropolitan Avenue so some of what was said, I know for a fact, is not 100 percent accurate,” Cappelmann said. “Was there an interaction between police officers and this young man? Absolutely. There was an interaction. The officers didn’t even get out of their car. It was an interaction through a window of a car.”
Neither he nor any of the letter writers offered further detail about the incident, such as how far the officers followed him or exactly what route he took.
Cappelmann said the family declined to make a complaint at the precinct or to the independent Civilian Complaint Review Board.
“I’m more than willing to have them come to the precinct or go to another location or anywhere and discuss the incident,” he said.
The commander said that the officers involved have no complaints of that nature on their record, not one officer under Cappelmann’s command has a race-based complaint, and civilian complaints overall in the precinct have dropped 40 percent from 2019.
“Racial profiling is not only wrong, it’s a violation of department policy and it’s also against the law,” Cappelmann said, adding that officers are taught that from day one in the academy and go through implicit bias and other training throughout their careers.
“I never want someone to feel as though they were targeted based on who they are or what they are,” he said. “That’s a terrible feeling to have. I don’t want anybody to feel that way.”
CB 6 member Steven Metz noted that the people involved believed they were better off going through the community board than the police. Cappelmann said he provided a number for the Civilian Complaint Review Board to the family but board member Elizabeth Newton, of The Legal Aid Society, said officers are made aware when a complaint is filed.
Cappelmann replied, “They’re not notified two days after the complaint, though.”
The commander added that the issue was about “Two human beings talking on the street. We’re not talking about a forcible stop.”
One CB 6 member, Emanuil Kalendarev, voiced his support for police, calling it “frightening and somewhat disgusting” that the “city [is] turning their backs on the police officers who come in many shapes and forms, from all different backgrounds to be the ones who put their lives on the line to protect our communities. And for any one member of society to claim that all police officers are racists towards a certain group is just disgusting and it’s sad and it’s not fair.”
Newton said that was not the issue at hand. “We all known darn well that there are a lot of good police officers out there,” she said, adding that a few officers make it look bad but that she still wants to know the reason for the interaction.
Cappelmann said speaking to residents is part of policing and that the officers involved did not even get out of the car.
“The police can speak to anybody on the street,” he said. “If we’re talking about stopping police from speaking to people on the street, that’s a very dangerous thing. We really don’t want the police and the community members to be at a point where we can’t even speak.”