There was an elephant in the basement of Berean Baptist Church in Crown Heights on Monday, when Police Commissioner Ray Kelly spent an hour addressing the questions of residents concerned with violence, drugs and quality of life issues on the streets of the 77th precinct in Brooklyn.
That elephant came in the form of allegations that officers from the 77th assaulted two lesbian women outside of a local nightclub while spewing anti-gay remarks. The question never came up during the meeting and the commissioner gave a terse “no comment” when confronted with it on his way out the door.
Soon after, I relayed that exchanged to Councilwoman Letitia James and she chuckled.
“Well, I guess it’s pending investigation, but you know, they seem pretty credible, there were a number of witnesses, so I look forward to an investigation and hopefully we’ll find out what happened.“
The councilwoman had just addressed issues of crime for the mostly dispersed crowd, as she had done on the previous Saturday at a protest outside of the 77th Precinct. Supporters of Jeannette Grey and Tiffany Jimenez held signs of support for the women who allege that officers responding to an altercation at the Ife Lounge on May 16 made anti-gay remarks and used excessive force.
In advance of pride celebrations all over the country, the allegations have not made headlines in the mainstream news – the only media outlets to pick up the story were 1010Wins and WPIX. Coverage seems to be overshadowed by another police scandal involving the death of Officer Omar J. Edwards, shot by a colleague. (Officer Edwards was from Crown Heights.)
“I don’t know the facts,” continued Councilwoman James. “I just met the witnesses and they seem pretty credible to me and it requires an investigation.”
The councilwoman said she has asked District Attorney Charles Hines to look into the matter.
“Why would anyone want to make something like that up?“ she added. “Those are some serious allegations both ways.”