U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand said she supported local activists’ demand for a state investigation of the seven Freeport Police officers who arrested Akbar Rogers in December, who the Nassau County district attorney declined to prosecute on July 7.
“ I support a state inquiry into this incident,” Gillibrand said. “Exercising independent oversight and demanding complete accountability of law enforcement is key to ending police brutality.”
In order for state Attorney General Letita James’s office to investigate the case, the office would need a referral from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. As of the time of press, the governor’s office did not reply to the Herald’s request for a response.
In her decision not to charge the seven officers, County DA Madeline Singas said her office conducted an independent review of the case — which was caught on video as officers chased Rogers over a fence, with two officers punching and kicking him — and found that the officers operated within the law and policy in place.
The case was reviewed with help from Dr. Philip Hayden, a nationally regarded expert on the use of force by police.
Greg-Patric Martello, whose law firm is representing Rogers in a $25 million lawsuit against the Village of Freeport and Nassau County, said he disagreed with Singas’s decision and was glad that Gillibrand was pushing for a second investigation.
“Senator Gillibrand has demonstrated the courage and the vision to see the Freeport police actions for what they are…. a total abuse of their authority which led them to believe that seven officers could gang up on and brutally beat and dehumanize an unarmed man and get away with it,” Martello said.
Both Nassau County and village officials said they would not comment on pending litigation.
Martello and community activists who have been organizing protests and rallies on Rogers’s behalf urged Singas to review the case again, saying that the video of the incident is enough proof that the officers had acted outside the law, as evident by the language of one of the officers, who used expletives while arresting Rogers.
“If you’re telling me that arresting someone like that, using that kind of force and language, is lawful, then that’s not okay,” said Nia Adams, a community organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, who helped organize previous protests for Rogers. “That law needs to be changed, and we’re working to change the justice system not just for Akbar, but for the community of Freeport and all the other victims of police brutality.”
Gillibrand added that Rogers’s case demonstrated a need to reform police and create a national standard for officers to follow through the Justice in Policing Act. The proposed legislation would hold police accountable for misconduct, improve transparency, establish lynching as a federal crime, ban chokeholds and enact other police reform measures.
“We are at a moment of moral reckoning in this country and we must take action,” Gillibrand said in the U.S. Senate floor on July 16. “Our country needs bold reforms to address the systemic and institutional racism that plagues our criminal justice system.”