While the city recently released footage from police body cameras in the fatal shooting of Kawaski Trawick, it still has yet to make the full unedited footage public.
Marinda van Dalen, senior staff attorney in the disability justice program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest is leading several Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) lawsuits against the NYPD to demand the unedited footage of police responses to people in mental health crises, including one for the Trawick case. She is also an expert on alternative models to police intervention.
Van Dalen told the Bronx Times she is quite upset with how the city has handled this investigation.
“The body worn camera program was instituted to trace transparency and accountability, not to assist in law enforcement,” van Dalen said. “The response that we’ve seen by the NYPD is that they’re willing to use court resources in an effort to prevent footage from being released.”
According to the official report, 32-year-old Kawaski Trawick was locked out of his Hill House apartment on April 14, 2019. FDNY personnel let Trawick back into his home and he had already started cooking when NYPD Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis arrived at Hill House.
The report said that Trawick asked the officers multiple times why they were in his home and he explained to them that he was “just cooking.” Thompson and Davis allegedly refused to answer Trawick’s questions, yelled orders at him and tased and killed him within minutes of their arrival.
Van Dalen, who has been a lawyer for 27 years, stressed that the city must release all the footage and added that Trawick could be alive if if trained mental health professionals and peers were responding instead of police.
“It was troubling to watch the footage and see what happened,” she said.
According to van Dalen, the city does not feel the need to release the unedited footage because it is an ongoing investigation. She added that “the city is just throwing everything against the wall to see what will stick.”
“We believe the footage, if released, will show the gross inadequacy of the police response,” she stressed.
Van Dalen noted it’s quite alarming that even when cops arrive on the scene of an emotionally disturbed person (EDP) such as Trawick or Walter Wallace, they end up killing them.
She said that it should have been a sign for police to be sensitive to Trawick’s mental health issues since he live in supportive housing. Additionally, when the cops entered the apartment, Trawick was cooking and posed no threat.
“Our goal is to try and bring about real reform in how we respond as a society to someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis,” she said. “It’s sad to see our public institutions seem to be more concerned with protecting themselves and obscuring what happened.”