The orthodox Jewish community in Crown Heights joined elected officials at a press conference Monday to protest what they feel is the wrongful arrest and beating of an innocent citizen.
Public Advocate Bill De Blasio, State Senators Eric Adams and Karim Camara, City Council Member Latisha James and other elected officials gathered with key advocates in Crown Height's Hasidic community to call for an investigation into an incident caught on video they feel showed NYPD officers using excessive force.
The incident took place on Monday, October 8, at 4:00 a.m., when 71st Precinct police were called to ALIYA (Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults), a synagogue and outreach center for troubled youth in Crown Heights, about a reportedly homeless man who was sleeping in the lounge of the center.
The encounter showed two NYPD officers of the 71st Precinct attempting to escort the man from the facility. However, after the man told officers he had permission to be in the center, an argument ensued. The video showed the officers punching the man about his body until backup arrived, and he was finally arrested.
It was later discovered that the man, identified as Ehud H. Halevi, in fact had permission to be there, according to Rabbi Moshe Feiglin, the center’s founder. Feiglin also expressed concerned that following the incident, others may now fear coming to the center.
“The tactics that were used are outside of proper protocol for removing someone from the scene or trying to subdue someone,” said State Senator Eric Adams, who is also a retired NYPD captain.
Before the video tape was released, officers said that force was used after Halevi attacked them. However, that account is in contrast with what is shown on the video.
“The video tape does not lie. [Halevi] was not in a threatening position. Police officers are not in a boxing match; they are trained to use dialogue to try to de-escalate the situation.”
The officers were responding to a call from someone inside of the center, who mistakenly thought the man was loitering on the center’s property without permission, according to an unnamed source.
However, Yaacov Behrman, a community activist from Crown Heights, said it does not excuse the officers’ use of excessive force and lack of protocol:
“This behavior is unacceptable,” said Behrman. “We thank all the good officers that are protecting our streets, but we expect them to follow a proper protocol.”
Halevi has been charged with assault on a police officer- which can bring a sentence of 5 years in prison upon conviction – and he is also facing four misdemeanor charges and four violations, including trespassing, resisting arrest and harassment.
Police officials have not yet commented on the incident since the video's release.
“From this video you are seeing that there is a common denominator amongst citizens where a level of excessive force is being used,” said Adams. “You’re seeing even in the heart of the orthodox and religious community, they are experiencing the same type of encounters.”
Adams said he and other community members are scheduling a meeting with the commanding officer of the 71st Pct to ask that the officers in question are re-trained and put on modified assignment.
“We call on the district attorney to immediately drop all charges, and we demand that the 71st Precinct take the police officers off the street until the investigation is complete,” said Behrman.