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N.Y. Mayor: Police Officers Used 'Necessary Force'

TROY, N.Y. -- Mayor Lou Rosamilia said Monday that a preliminary internal investigation shows city police "used necessary force" during a Saturday nightclub melee, but members of the city's black community were enraged by what they view as continuing evidence of unrestrained police brutality.

"We've been going through this for forever," the Rev. Cornelius Clark told a crowd of more than 100 people gathered Monday night at the Missing Link AME Zion Church.

On Monday afternoon, a civilian complaint was filed at police headquarters alleging police brutality when officers responded to a call early Saturday morning at Kokopellis, a bar and nightclub at 124 Fourth St.

The complaint followed the posting of a video on YouTube that shows an officer hitting a man on the ground with a nightstick at the bar.

The latest controversy followed the report of an alleged Christmas Day assault by an officer on a man under arrest in the city lockup at police headquarters. Officials have said the incident was captured on an internal surveillance camera.

Rosamilia met with the police department's top commanders to review the Saturday fight, then followed it up with a meeting with Council President Rodney Wiltshire and Councilman Robert Doherty, the Public Safety Committee chairman.

"Although we are in the early stages of the investigation, preliminary evidence indicates that our police department, in an effort to gain control of an out-of-control situation, used necessary force in order to make arrests and protect themselves and others," Rosamilia said in a statement.

The police department's Internal Affairs Bureau has just one officer, Capt. Terrance Buchanan, assigned to investigate complaints.

The mayor had announced a news conference Monday morning on the Kokopellis incident, but then canceled it. Instead, he issued the statement.

But the crowd at the church was not satisfied.

"You don't want an internal investigation. You need an independent investigation to get to the bottom of this," Alice Green of the Center for Law and Justice said to cheers and applause.

The Troy African-American Pastoral Alliance turned out for the meeting to show they were united in changing what's viewed as a climate sanctioning brutality to members of the city's minority community.

"Enough is enough," said Pastor Willie Bacote of the Missing Link church. "This is not a plantation."

There were calls for the suspension without pay of the police officers involved at Kokopellis. The city has taken no disciplinary action.

Wiltshire said the city must involve the African-American ministers in resolving the issues facing the police department.

"This is important to clear people's names and to find the guilty," said Wiltshire, who is black.

"We think it's very important this investigation be as open as possible and as transparent as possible," Doherty said.

"Disturbing" was how Doherty described the YouTube video showing Roshawon Donley, 25, being held against the bar by an officer in one instance and then falling to his knees while being hit in the back with a baton. Another police officer comes over to hold the man down as the first officer continues to hit the man.

Ariana Youngs said she witnessed Donley being struck with the baton.

"I was scared," Youngs said.

Donley had a swollen black eye at his arraignment on Saturday. He was charged with harassment, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest.

Rosamilia's statement said police arrived after a report of an employee being assaulted and were faced with patrons using pepper spray and throwing bottles at officers, a fire extinguisher being discharged and a garbage can thrown into a patrol car.

The club's co-owner, Joe Glick, said two calls were made to police after an employee was attacked. About 200 to 230 people, he said, were leaving the club when police arrived.

"Let us not forget, eight Troy police officers were injured and six of them were treated at the hospital," Rosamilia said.

In the criminal complaint against Donley, Officer Eric Smith stated that Donley allegedly pushed the officer attempting to escort him from the premises, attempted to punch officers, tried to flee and despite "several verbal commands" would not remove his hands from being clenched against his chest.

On Monday in City Court, a plea of not guilty was entered on behalf of Zainob Shaibu, 23, of Queens, who did not have an attorney. She faces charges of harassment, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. She allegedly pushed police away and punched and kicked an officer.

Quaivon Venson, 22, of Troy, was also charged with harassment, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and Rashad Thomas, 22, of Troy, was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, Also arrested Saturday were Troy residents Tony Carter, 39, who was charged with harassment, and Michael Haight, 23, who was charged with disorderly conduct.

The council's Public Safety Committee will meet either Feb. 4 or Feb. 13 to give the public an opportunity to speak on allegations of police brutality and use of force at Kokopellis, Doherty said.

Copyright 2014 - Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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