CITY OF NEWBURGH – About 200 people rallied outside in Newburgh on Friday in support of city police in light of recent budget cuts, layoffs and a controversial incident involving a city councilman and a group of officers that is under investigation.
The crowd outside the Karpeles Manuscript Library on Broadway mostly consisted of Orange County law enforcement form the District Attorney and Sheriff's offices, Newburgh city police and fire departments, politicians and business owners.
The rally was District Attorney David Hoovler's idea, he said, and he reached out to locals for help spreading the word.
Rich Fracasse, a City of Newburgh businessman, said during the rally, “In my opinion, what we need to do is we need to tell City of Newburgh City Council to tell somebody that hates the police that we think you need to step down and leave.”
Police body cameras recorded footage of City Councilman-at-Large Omari Shakur lashing out at a city police detective and other officers on Feb. 18, after he was approached for parking his car in the opposite lane of traffic on Carpenter Avenue. When officers asked Shakur for his driver's license, Shakur declined and cursed at the cops.
Shakur claimed he became defensive after the detective brought up the death of his son, who was shot and killed by city police during an incident in 2006, in a conversation not caught on camera.
Shakur has apologized for his conduct, saying in a statement released Feb. 22, “The reaction displayed is not who I am and I fell short of the love that I feel amongst my constituents in Newburgh and of the leadership I want to represent.”
At Friday's rally Hoovler said: “Even if that officer was entirely wrong, that is never the way that you address your grievance with police...For our police department: be safe, continue to do your job.”
The incident is being investigated by an outside agency that probes police and elected official misconduct.
Hoovler's office has concluded its investigation into the police officers' conduct during the incident.
“A review of the available evidence has indicated the police officer involved in this matter broke no criminal law and acted within discretion granted him under the description of his job, and the penal law of the state of New York,” Hoovler said in a statement.
The speakers at the rally each expressed passionate support for the city police officers.
City Police Chief Doug Solomon thanked everyone for coming the rally.
“This is just what we needed today to put a little more bounce in our step,” Solomon said at the rally. “… The men and women members of the Newburgh city police department are an absolutely extraordinary bunch…. Despite whatever is thrown in their way, they are committing acts of heroism every day.”