A few dozen Atlantic City residents — including relatives of slain Derreck Mack — spoke out Thursday against the way police officers allegedly treat residents.
Residents said at the City Council meeting that officers have assaulted and spoken disrespectfully to residents and changes were needed to improve community relations and make officers more accountable.
Chief Ernest Jubilee said officers are held to a high standard and the council is working on a citizens review board to improve the current relationship.
Multiple residents asked for new initiatives such as sensitivity and diversity training for officers, and a board to oversee police actions so there is greater accountability.
Mack, 18, died Dec. 17, after he was shot by police during a chase in the area of Stanley Holmes Village.
Steven Young, president of the local chapter of National Action Network, said the public has asked for these types of measures in the past but nothing was done.
“We knew it would come to this some day,” he said. “You asked for solutions. You were given solutions.”
Resident Jamilah Butts-Bell said she wanted to see the city do something to ensure police are held accountable.
“The law is not above the law. Who is policing the police?” she asked. “Who wants to go to a police (officer) and get beat down? If you want respect, it can’t be beaten into you. It must be earned.”
Mack’s family also spoke out during the meeting and made accusations against the police.
Mack’s mother Ruby Conde asked for the police to release the name of the officer who shot her son and said he should not be protected.
“I’m sure the officer has infractions. If you shoot my baby in the back and kill him, you must have done something before,” she said. “I want the officer (suspended). I want him to be locked up so he can feel what I feel. He shouldn’t see his children if I can’t see mine.”
Mack’s aunt Ecstasy Blackwell alleged the police were attempting to slander her family, after it was reported a Northfield police officer’s stolen service weapon was found in her home after a shots-fired call led police there. Later, a neighbor found a bullet inside his home a few doors down.
Blackwell said she did not have a gun in her home and alleged the police planted it there because Conde was staying with her at the time.
“There was no gun in my home,” she said. “It’s so strange I have Ruby and her children staying in my home, now I have a gun in my home.”
Police did not release the name of anyone in the home when they reported recovering the gun. The Press of Atlantic City reported that the home belonged to Blackwell after looking up the address in public records. Charges were pending in the case.
Mack’s older brother Raymond Mack, who was arrested shortly after the shooting for allegedly assaulting a police officer, was extremely emotional and cried throughout his speech. He said he was upset the officers did not inform him that his brother was killed while he was in custody.
Councilman Frank Gilliam said the city is working on new initiatives to make changes for the benefit of the residents, including a program with Richard Stockton College and the state Attorney General’s Office to determine any social services needed.
“We care, and we understand,” he said. “2013 will have a lot of new programs. Hold tight.”
Jubilee declined to discuss specifics on the located gun, noting the investigation was ongoing. He said the department does not tolerate disrespectful behavior among officers, and they encourage them to show respect and restraint.
Council President William Marsh said he appreciated the residents who came out and understood why the shooting so emotional for them.
“We care a lot,” he said. “We want to make sure we do everything we can to bring comfort and gain a sense of closure (for) the family.”
Also at the meeting, the council asked its attorneys to talk to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority about why it did not receive a $3.2 million payment a few years ago.
The money was supposed to be a bonus if the city completed work on the All Wars Building-Soldier’s Home in time. The city met the deadline but did not apply for the money to be transferred and was later told by the CRDA it would not get the funds.
Council Vice President Steven Moore asked the staff to review whether there was a contract and whether the city can make a claim for the money.
The council approved Boraie Development LLC of New Brunswick, Middlesex County, as the redeveloper for a 7.9-acre lot near Revel and Showboat casinos in the resort’s South Inlet section.
The designation means the city can now negotiate with the group of investors that includes former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. The company proposes an entertainment complex that would include a seven-screen movie theater, bowling alley, roller-skating rink, restaurant, shops and parking areas.
Marsh said nothing was final but he hoped there will be news on the project by the middle of next year.
“Both parties want to see something positive done there,” he said.
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