I'm just waiting around till it's time to die. Wait with me?
The opening quote, above, was related to us by Kenneth Chamberlain Jr, when he appeared on the “Democracy Now!” news hour talking about the police killing of his father. Chamberlain Jr was holding on to the LifeAid pendant that his father wore around his neck in case of a medical emergency. Perhaps unbeknown to the White Plains police who arrived at Chamberlain Sr’s door that morning, the LifeAid system includes a box in the home that, when activated, transmits audio to the LifeAid company, where it is recorded. Chamberlain Jr and his lawyers heard the recording in a meeting at the office of the Westchester county district attorney, Janet DiFiore.
Chamberlain Jr repeated what he heard his father say on the tape: “He says, ‘I’m a 68-year-old man with a heart condition. Why are you doing this to me?’ … You also hear him pleading with the officers again, over and over. And at one point, that’s when the expletive is used by one of the police officers.” One of Chamberlain Jr’s lawyers, Mayo Bartlett, told me about the racial slur. Bartlett is a former Westchester county prosecutor, so he knows the ropes. He was explicit in recounting what he heard on the recording.
“Kenneth Chamberlain Sr said to the police, ‘I’m a sick old man.’ One of the police officers replied, ‘We don’t give a fuck, nigger!’” The recording also includes a taunt from the police, as related by Bartlett, “Open the door, Kenny, you’re a grown-ass man!” It was when Chamberlain Jr related how the police mocked his father’s military service that he broke down. “He said, ‘Semper fi.’ So they said, ‘Oh, you’re a marine. Hoo-rah. Hoo-rah.’ And this is somebody that served this country. Why would you even say that to him?” Chamberlain Jr wept as he held his father’s marine ring and veterans administration card.
An incidental recording taken while a Florida woman was on the phone with her insurance company shows that the police who arrested her and charged her with a felony for resisting arrest lied in their reports, and then again under questioning.
Here is the cops’ story:
The … ordeal began late-afternoon on Oct. 4, when Fernandes, a four-year CSPD veteran with no previous internal affairs complaints on his record, noticed Mait’s Lexus SUV stopped in the left lane of Royal Palm Boulevard.
Fernandes, 35, pulled up behind her vehicle to see what was wrong. Mait approached his car and told him that two of her tires had blown out, and she needed a tow …
According to police reports and the officers’ sworn depositions, Mait told Fernandes and later Stasnek, who arrived as backup, that she was on Xanax, and that she couldn’t move the car out of traffic — but that she did want to drive it the two miles to her home.
Before Stasnek pulled up, Fernandes told Mait to call for a tow, which she did from her passenger seat. But as she waited for a GEICO roadside assistance representative to dispatch a wrecker, things unraveled.
When Stasnek, a four-year member of the force with a clean prior record, approached Mait’s SUV, she repeatedly asked for a driver’s license, the tape shows. Mait refused. In her deposition, Stasnek said she warned the driver repeatedly she “would be disobeying my lawful command and would be arrested for resisting my lawful command.”
At some point, Mait put a hand in the officer’s face to dismiss the request, according to police accounts, which was apparently one insult too many.
The officers hauled her out of her car and tried to arrest her, which they claim she resisted by tensing her body and slamming into Stasnek.
The alleged Xanax didn’t show up in toxicology tests. And then Mait’s attorney got the recording:
The 17-minute recording features a series of exchanges that Catalano says contradict the officers’ sworn testimony, including this back-and-forth between Mait and Stasnek after the female officer asked for ID:
Mait: “Did you not see me on the phone?”
Stasnek: “Did you not see this uniform I have on? Don’t give me any s— right now. Give me your f—ing driver’s license.”
During her deposition, Stasnek was asked by Catalano — who did not tell the officers the encounter had been recorded — if she had used those words. She twice said no.
Catalano also pressed both officers under oath on whether Stasnek had given Mait notice that the driver was disobeying a lawful command. Both officers testified she had — at least twice. The recording catches no such exchange, although it is possible she did during a short stretch when GEICO had Mait on hold.
Late in the recording, while Mait can be heard sobbing in the distance, the officers say the following:
Fernandes: “I didn’t hear anything you said. I was in the back of the car.”
Stasnek: “I did drop the F-bomb.”
Fernandes, laughing: “I didn’t hear that. In my [internal affairs] statement, I’ll say I didn’t hear that. … Don’t worry, I will put everything I heard beforehand.”
If you live in Illinois, you might consider sending this story to those of your state legislators who last week voted down an amendment that would have allowed citizens to record on-duty police officers.