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Chamberlain shooting suit claims lack of police training

Written byRichard Liebson (11/22/12)

WHITE PLAINS — Lawyers for the family of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. on Wednesday filed an amended complaint in their $21 million federal lawsuit against the city, several police officers and the White Plains Housing Authority, saying that a lack of proper policies and training in dealing with emotionally disturbed people contributed to the 68-year-old’s shooting death by police a year ago.

“The New York Police Department policy says the objective is to safeguard the (emotionally disturbed) person. Don’t do anything to agitate or provoke the person,” said Randolph McLaughlin, one of the lawyers for the Chamberlain family. “The White Plains policy doesn’t have that. If they’d have had an adequate, effective policy in place, none of this would have happened.”

Chamberlain, a former Marine and retired correction officer who had a criminal record, was killed in his 135 S. Lexington Ave. apartment after police went to check on his condition when his medical-alert device accidentally went off. When police refused to leave after he said he was fine, he threatened to kill the first officer who entered his apartment.

Officers broke down the door. Officer Anthony Carelli shot Chamberlain after, police said, he lunged at another officer with a knife.

In May, a Westchester County grand jury declined to file criminal charges against any of the eight officers involved in the incident. All of them are named in the federal lawsuit, which was originally filed in July.

A city-commissioned analysis released in October cleared police of wrongdoing, but did recommend that the Police Department research ways to expand its policies regarding emotionally disturbed people.

The amended complaint says White Plains’ policy is inadequate in that it does not address the procedures to be used to restrain, contain or help an emotionally disturbed person. As a retired New York City police officer, the complaint says, White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong should have been aware of the gaps in the White Plains policy and changed it.

The new complaint also says Lt. James Spencer, who sent officers in tactical gear to the scene, did not go there himself or contact superior officers as the situation escalated.

“No one was in charge,” McLaughlin said. “Those officers were left to their own devices. There was no policy, so they made it up as they went along.”

The case is being reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department.

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Additional inquiries about this case may be directed to Newman Ferrara attorney, Professor Randolph McLaughlin, at 212-619-5400.