Forum held to discuss Lembhard shooting
Many people in Newburgh believe the shooting of Michael Lembhard is not an isolated incident, but instead a pattern of mistreatment by the police. Now, a civil rights lawyer is intervening. Our Venise Toussiant has the story.
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NEWBURGH, N.Y. -- “Something’s got to give.”
A community wounded by years of mistrust and tension with the police department. The family of Michael Lembhard and others fill the room at a public forum to discuss how to better relations with the Newburgh Police Department.
“We’re tired of what’s happening."
During the forum held by civil rights attorney Michael Sussman, several people detailed incidents where they said racial profiling, slurs and excessive force was used against them by Newburgh Police.
“They were watching me, thinking I was doing something.”
“The police came out the alley way, knocked him out, threw him on the ground for no reason.”
The forum comes a month after the death of Michael Lembhard, 22, who was shot and killed by Newburgh Police officers. Police said Lembhard rushed at them with a knife before they opened fire. Since his death, Lembhard’s family has held several protests at city hall calling on a special prosecutor to investigate the case, those requests eventually denied by the state.
Sussman said, “In general what exists is the devaluation of the lives of young people of color, would lethal force have been used if a white person was at the end of that gun and would’ve been the victim? Many people in this society think that the answer is no. “
Sussman said he held a similar forum in 2007 which also brought to light the reoccurring issues of anger, violence and tension between the community and police.
“We have to change this or else we’re going to replicate it from generation to generation we have to stop that spiral,” said Sussman.
Sussman is urging the police department to use cameras on patrol cars as a means of documenting police activity. He’s also calling for more community policing and youth programs. He said his list of recommendations and solutions will be presented to city officials at the next city council meeting.