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Hudson Valley Press

September 5th, 2012

Kennedy speak on violence in the City of Newburgh

Police Chief Michael Ferrara speaks on recent violence in Newburgh as Mayor Judy Kennedy, Councilman Curlie Dillard, Councilwoman Gay Lee, Deputy Mayor Regina Angelo, and City Manager Richard Herbek look on.
The following is a statement from City of Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy:

I have a fairly long fuse when it comes to getting angry, but this week I have reached the end of my fuse. I am willing to be reasonable and willing to negotiate through conflict, and I try to be fair and evaluate both sides. Some people have misperceived my patience as ‘being soft’. But I am angry now. Really angry! 

I will not stand by and tolerate blatant attacks on our fire and police departments by an out of control mob that believes it is above the law. The behavior of the participants at the end of the rally on Monday night is absolutely unacceptable! Now, I read in the paper that the blame has once again been shifted to the police.  But wait - who started an illegal fire? Who threw bricks at the fire truck? Who wanted the police to come? Who was yelling obscenities at the police? The answer is an angry mob itching for a fight.

To make matters worse, we have a City judge who chose to turn one of the attackers loose on his own recognizance immediately after arrest, without even one night in jail. No wonder we have people terrorizing the City. Where is the accountability for lawless choices?  

Worse yet, we also read that the organizers of this rally say they are not responsible for the behavior of the people who tore up the place, injured our police officers and threw trash all over the street after the rally was over.

After three hours of spewing negative rhetoric toward the police and the City, and ‘whipping’ the crowd into an angry frenzy, you don’t just walk away from a bunch of young, hot-head kids and adults and think nothing is going to happen, especially knowing that plenty of alcohol was being consumed and that tensions were already high. Yes, the organizers of the rally are responsible for what happened. They did an excellent job of pouring gas on a fire!

They had a sign at the rally that said “Parents against Police Brutality”. I want to know where the sign was that says “Parents for accountability for their children’s behavior” or “Parents for Peaceful Conflict Resolution”. Children do not just suddenly become violent.  Violence begins in the home.   They learn it from their families and friends. Children and young adults who are home minding their own business are not in trouble with the police. As a single mother raising four sons, I can tell you that if my son had participated in the melee of Monday night, I would be down at the police station signing the complaint.

There are two words missing in this dialogue and they are ‘Accountability’ and ‘Respect’. I have watched and listened to people screaming and shouting at each other, adults shouting obscenities and others being generally disruptive at City Council meetings. No one wants to accept accountability for their own choices and behaviors. They are looking for someone to blame when things go wrong. Years of bad choices eventually end up in bad outcomes. It’s time for some people to realize that they are creating their own trouble.

If the police are asked to change some of their tactics, then there are people in this community who must also change their behavior. This is a two way street! There must be a significant change in attitude toward our police department. Police officers are human, too. Both kids and adults have been taunting and goading our officers, deliberately trying to start fights. Parents have blatantly instructed their young children not to speak to officers or to be rude. For some it’s a game to see if they can initiate a lawsuit. 

Our officers are called into dangerous situations every day. They deal with kids and young adults who think they are invincible, who carry all sorts of weapons and are willing to kill somebody just to prove a point, not to mention strung-out on mind-altering drugs. For some people, it seems it’s expected that the police risk their lives, but they are not supposed to be tough.   They have to be tough just to survive the violent culture in which they find themselves. 

I give my condolences to the police officers who were hurt and pray they will heal soon. I also give high praise to our police department for their ability to keep their ‘cool’ in a very volatile situation on Monday night. Another person could have easily been killed that night. From now on, this type of gathering must be very tightly controlled. Violence and criminal activities are not going to be tolerated. Whatever it takes, it’s time to get tough on people who willfully break the law. That includes calling in State and Federal resources.

The City has been working hard with community members all summer toward some positive changes to heal old wounds and hurts. The Department of Justice has been helping to facilitate meetings.   Many people from different parts of the community have contributed toward that effort by organizing and implementing various activities. Now, with just one big, nasty rioting incident by a few irresponsible people, we have taken a big step backward.  

However, I refuse to let a small minority of people, who blatantly disrespect the law, destroy all the positive progress we are making. I ask every law-abiding citizen that cares about this community to continue their support and to strengthen their resolve to make the positive changes we need in Newburgh. I ask the NAACP to lead and support peaceful resolution of our differences. I ask the churches to create and lead classes to support and mentor our families. As your Mayor, I am committed to continuing the effort to bridge the gaps and bring this community together. We cannot let this incident stop the progress; instead, it must strengthen our resolve.

If your goal is to be disruptive, to continue creating chaos and a negative image of Newburgh, then there will be zero tolerance for that behavior. It’s time to stop this nonsense. It’s time to stop using the pain of the past to create more pain in the future. And I will do everything in my power to stop it.

Both Chief Ferrara and I are committed to our continuing efforts to bridge the gap between our police force and the community. There are many plans to accomplish this currently in the making. Change takes time, especially when we are trying to include so many people in the planning process.  Change takes effort and participation.   Change takes courage. If you are willing to step up and be part of the process, to focus on creating new solutions instead rehashing old problems, then you are invited.

I don’t have all the answers, but giving up on Newburgh is definitely not the answer. Since taking office I have tried to work with both sides of the table to heal deep wounds that abound in this City and I will continue. But let me be very clear that I, as your Mayor, stand on the side of the police force and the law-abiding citizens of this community.

For those who want to break the law, my message to you is this - Not in Newburgh, not anymore!
5 / 5 (3 Votes)

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