The gaggle of officers who were in the Kings Highway building were responding to a domestic violence call without an apartment number when they heard shouting coming from Stewart’s apartment. When the officers confronted Stewart about the noise, she told them they had the wrong apartment, but that didn’t stop them from forcing her into the hallway wearing nothing but a towel – which fell off in her struggle with police – and her underwear – which thankfully remained on her body throughout the incident.
While Stewart struggled with police, her male neighbor asked them several times, “Where the female officers at?” He was told that it wasn’t any of his business and to go back into his apartment, as can be seen on one witness video. From the stairwell, another female resident was recording as well, and she can be heard saying, “She has asthma,” while Stewart said repeatedly, “I can’ breathe,” a chillingly similar scenario to the fateful day on Staten Island that took a father away from his children.
Police say that when they went into the apartment, they saw a 12-year-old girl with visible trauma to the face who told them her grandmother – Denise Stewart – and her older sister were beating her with a belt. So it is possible that they may have done some good here, but even the girl, who kicked out a police van window when she was locked inside, was not exactly screaming for help from the swarm of officers.
Whether the responding officers were right or wrong in their arrest of Stewart, her son and his daughter who was allegedly involved in the beating of the young girl, what is painfully obvious from the multiple witness videos is that not one of the many officers at any time had the decency to say, “Hey, maybe we should show this citizen of the United States some common human decency and cover her up while we continue our onsite investigation.”
At a time when NYPD officers are crying out about their reduced street authority and community backlash, maybe it’s time for a little self-reflection, and to realize that the mistrust and disdain from New York’s most vulnerable communities is not so far misplaced. And maybe it’s time for those same officers to remember that the people of this city have constitutional rights that it is their duty to uphold.