David: A memorial of flowers and candles created by
Shawn and Jody Brozowski on New Years Day. Photo:
Questions are many about why David Scaringe was killed
by police fire
may be the most common word used to describe the tragedy that
unfolded late afternoon on New Year’s Eve at the corner of
Lark and State streets in Albany.
David R.A. Scaringe, 24, was shot and killed as he walked
into the intersection where Albany police officers Joseph
Gerace and William Bonanni had opened fire on a car they were
pursuing. The driver, Daniel Reed, 32, of Delmar, had been
pulled over on State Street for driving erratically and having
a stolen license plate, but then fled. When he found himself
blocked in at Lark and State streets, he turned onto the sidewalk,
and then gunned the car in reverse at Gerace, who was now
on foot. Gerace fired seven shots before jumping out of the
way. Bonanni fired once. Reed escaped, but was apprehended
later that night. He has been charged with reckless endangerment.
The officers have been placed on desk duty while an internal
investigation proceeds. The results of that investigation
will be given to a grand jury.
It was later revealed that supervisors had ordered the officers
to call off the car chase, but it is unclear whether those
orders were heard or were lost in the transmissions between
patrol cars involved in the chase. Nonetheless, police department
policy still holds officers responsible for choosing to continue
a chase that may endanger the public.
Friends, family, residents, and community leaders expressed
varying levels of outrage and disbelief that officers would
open fire in a crowded intersection in a pedestrian neighborhood
on New Year’s Eve. “If I went shooting down a crowded street,
I would be in jail. We don’t understand why these officers
aren’t,” said Erica Miller, a friend of Scaringe’s from his
together: Friends, family, residents, and activists
gathered at a Saturday night candlelight vigil for David
Scaringe. Photo: Joe Putrock
hard not to think that at least one police officer acted irresponsibly,”
said Michael, a relative of the family.
Juhre, a resident of the Center Square neighborhood, said
the shooting showed “incredible weakness” and “a profound
lack of judgment.”
astounding to me that a police officer shoots across a busy
intersection on New Year’s Eve,” said Erin O’Brien, executive
director of the Women’s Building. “How do we get to that point?”
The officers’ decisions to continue the car chase and to shoot
have brought two related police department policies—on car
chases and on use of deadly force—into question.
chases should be limited to violent criminals,” said Jerome
Skolnick, a professor at the New York University of Law and
the University of California at Berkeley and author of several
books on policing, including Justice Without Trial: Law
Enforcement in Democratic Society and Above the Law:
Police and the Excessive Use of Force. “More police are
injured in car chases than from anything else, and they always
pose a threat to bystanders. . . . It’s an aggressive thing
to do.” Nonetheless, he said, “Cops love them,” especially
“younger cops that watch cop movies and think they’re invulnerable.”
Many departments across the country have revised their policies
to limit car chases to violent felons, but when Albany reviewed
its policy in October 2002, it added no such limitation. Chief
Robert Wolfgang has said the department’s investigation of
the incident will also include another look at the policy.
Police spokesman Detective James Miller said the review was
natural. “The gravity of what happened obviously is going
to raise a lot of questions in people’s minds,” he said. Nonetheless,
he said, “at the moment there’s nothing indicating any problem
with the policy itself.”
will review it, and they will change it,” predicted Skolnick.
“It’s always after the fact.”
When it comes to the decision to shoot, many people are reluctant
to second-guess an officer’s assessment that his life was
in danger. But at the same time, many feel that this case
clearly stepped over some line. “We try not to be judgmental
of the police force because they have a job to do,” said Caroline
Isachsen, a longtime Albany resident who spends a lot of time
in Center Square, “but guns drawn at 4 o’clock is excessive.
It’s for the investigations to bring to light whether their
actions were justified or not. I think the community feels
Dr. Alice Green, director of the Center for Law and Justice,
recalled that she asked the Citizens Police Review Board to
review the policy on use of deadly force after Jason Mayo,
a young African-American man in the South End, was killed
by a police officer on Christmas Eve 2002. Mayo was fleeing
arrest, and was alleged to have pointed a loaded gun at the
officer. Despite the numerous differences in the cases, said
Green, if the community and the department had reviewed the
policy at the time of Mayo’s death, the current tragedy might
have been avoided.
Green said the differences in handling the cases are striking;
the department is being much more sympathetic to the parents
and showing more willingness to review the policies in this
case, she said, in part because they “have a community that
is outraged that’s very different than the ones they usually
wouldn’t dignify that with an answer,” responded Miller.
Green is calling on the review board to follow the investigation
closely, and she would like to see a community process to
discuss the situations in which officers should draw their
guns. Miller said the department’s priority at the moment
is completing the investigation.
Meanwhile, some other community members are hoping to start
a more broad-based conversation about the nature of safety
and the role of policing. “[We thought] the police should
be able to hear . . . that it wasn’t that people all of a
sudden wanted to throw rocks at cop cars; people had ideas
about how things should change,” said O’Brien. “It was a serious
wake-up call to the citizens of Albany. . . . But from conversations
I had with police at the vigil, I think it was a wake-up call
for the police as well, that things can go terribly wrong.
Hopefully we can find a common ground out of that.”
O’Brien is hoping for a grassroots forum for communication
between residents and police. But the initial response she
received from Chief Wolfgang was that they weren’t interested,
because “they did enough talking,” reported O’Brien. Still
she remains hopeful that some sort of productive dialogue
can emerge. “If the police feel that they’re doing that in
other ways, maybe that’s OK,” she said. “Maybe the community
needs to talk first, and maybe once they see what we’re doing,
But even as they talk about change, area residents and community
leaders are also conscious of trying not to overly politicize
a young man’s death. “This isn’t the time to further a political
agenda or platform,” said O’Brien.
Shawn Brozowski, whose knee was grazed by a bullet during
the incident, and his wife Jody called a vigil for Saturday
evening. Approximately 150 people showed up to memorialize
Scaringe, an engineer who graduated from Colonie High School
Jody Brozowski introduced the vigil by thanking the police
for blocking off the street to accommodate the large number
of people, something she had initially had been told was impossible.
Wendy Dwyer, a peace activist from Canaan, showed up at the
vigil with a sign, but quickly realized that this was not
the time for such approaches, she said. She kept the sign
rolled up under her arm and joined the other mourners standing
with candles. “This never should have happened,” she said.
protest: Mark Dunlea leading the Peoples State
of the State rally. Photo: Joe Putrock
New York Do You Live In?
Advocates and Gov. Pataki deliver differing versions of
the state of the state
was inside in the warmth of the Assembly’s chambers while
the other was outside in 19-degree wind chill at the Capitol’s
State Street entrance. One group came in suits, the other
armed with signs. It was State of the State time, and for
the 16th year in a row, Wednesday’s State of the State address
from Gov. George Pataki was preceded by one with a more street-level
On Tuesday, local advocates held the People’s State of the
State address in anticipation of both the governor’s speech
and this month’s forthcoming budget proposal. Hunger Action
Network co-hosted the rally, which was attended by activists
and representatives from Citizen Action, Capital District
Area Labor Federation, Civil Service Employees Association,
Hunger Action, Albany County Greens, Statewide Senior Action,
and Statewide Emergency Network for Social and Economic Security.
Though the rally was punctuated by poems, songs and chants,
speakers leapt directly into issues beyond the political tidiness
they anticipated in the governor’s address.
After last year’s budget wrangling—including the legislative
overrides of the governor’s vetoes—cuts to social services
and education funding were deep, and this year New Yorkers
and the programs they rely on remain needy.
In his remarks at the rally, associate director of Hunger
Action Network Mark Dunlea said that more than 900,000 people
a week use food pantries and soup kitchens in New York state,
and that Hunger Action recently found that the use of their
pantries and soup kitchens has risen 21 percent in the last
year. He added that according to the United States Conference
of Mayors, “about 40 percent of the adults using these programs
have a job, but they’re not making enough money to make ends
Advocates at the rally called for serious investment in social
programs as well as a significant and long-overdue raise in
the minimum wage to help boost the state’s economy.
counties are literally screaming about the fact that they
can’t handle the growing Medicaid costs,” said Ron Deutsch,
executive director for SENSES.
In his speech, the governor agreed that the state is “faced
with a Medicaid program that is quickly outstripping our ability
to afford it,” and expressed how the state and local governments
are in dire need of relief.
In this year’s freedom-themed State of the State address,
the governor offered 45 legislative initiatives for this session,
including a reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, expanding
the state’s antiterrorism measures, energy reform, introducing
initiative and referendum to the state’s political process,
and further boosting the state’s high-tech programs.
decades worth: Gov. Pataki at his 10th State of
the State address. Photo: Martin Benjamin
also reminded everyone that in 2001 he called the “school
finance system a dinosaur” and asked for a new formula “that
is fair, simple and sustainable.” After a court order in favor
of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity that said city schools were
disproportionately underfunded, the state has until the end
of July to redistribute school funds more equitably, particularly
to help urban schools. The governor called this “an historic
opportunity to answer that call and, indeed, we must do so
by July 30th.”
While it’s clear that the state needs to come up with money
to cover these costs, among others, it remains unclear how
that is possible. Deutsch pointed out that when the state
faced financial crisis last year, it was able to pull from
temporary sources, such as the tobacco settlement, to ease
the blow. This year those sources are exhausted.
Pataki said he would deliver the budget to the legislature
in under two weeks. Fighting over it will likely be fierce
want to make sure that the governor doesn’t balance the budget
on the backs of the poor, the sick, the elderly,” Deutsch
said at the rally. Legislative leaders have come out saying
they’re not interested in tax increases, much to Pataki’s
delight, but Deutsch thinks that more regressive fee increases,
like those implemented last year on things from fishing to
driving, are hardly the best option. Some solutions the advocates
cheered for included the closure of corporate loopholes that
allow multistate corporations to remain off New York’s tax
rolls, raising the bottle deposit, and collecting sales tax
on remote purchases like catalog and Internet sales. None
of these measures was mentioned in the governor’s speech.
service cuts and reimbursement cuts can’t take place without
hurting people who are poor and vulnerable,” stressed Mark
Hayes, the state and federal issues organizer for Housing
Works. “It’s not acceptable for our elected leaders to assume
that such hurts are inevitable.”
At the start of his speech, Pataki also hinted at a bid for
reelection by asking his potential opponents if they were
comfortable, saying he might “be here longer than you think.”
the Dems Get Their Energy
George W. Bush would tell you he’s pro-environment (perhaps
he means that he likes that it’s there for the taking). Since
Bush has managed to gut popular environmental protections
on almost every front, speaking green is a no-brainer for
Democratic candidates. So is recognizing America’s need to
diversify its energy sources and stop its reliance on foreign
oil. But what those things mean is somewhat different for
In 2002, a bill was defeated in the Senate that would have
required the United States to have 20 percent of its electricity
supply generated by clean, renewable sources by 2020. Many
of the current Democratic candidates are now running with
this 20-percent-by-2020 idea, including Wesley Clark, Howard
Dean, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, and, to a lesser extent,
Clark has used the strongest language, saying energy independence
is a matter of national security. Dean, Gephardt, Kerry, Dennis
Kucinich, and Lieberman have all stressed that America needs
to become energy independent via a combination of alternative,
renewable fuel sources and better fuel-efficiency requirements
and incentives. Kucinich is the only candidate who has called
for the expansion of public ownership of utilities.
Dean has stated that America’s environmental welfare is inextricably
tied to the health of our economy and our citizens. Similarly,
Edwards, Gephardt, Kerry and Lieberman emphasize that new
energy sources present significant opportunities for job growth.
According to Kerry, 500,000 jobs could be created by his vision
for increased research, development and implementation of
efficiency and alternative fuel sources.
new energy technologies can create thousands of good new jobs,”
wrote Kerry in a 2002 article for Time magazine. “Renewable
energy can be generated, transported and consumed in America.
And we can export our technology. I don’t think we should
take a backseat to the Germans or the Japanese in creating
clean energies no American soldier will ever have risk life
and limb to protect.”
The League of Conservation voters gave Kerry a 96-percent
lifetime score—better than Kucinich—for his strong environmental
voting record. Kerry likens his environmental plan to a new
Manhattan Project. More appealingly, Gephardt’s is called
Apollo 21, in homage to Kennedy’s revolutionary space program.
Gephardt has formulated fairly specific plans for sensible
environmental policy, though he has failed to vote on any
significant environmental bill in the last year. Lieberman
takes pride in his environmental record, as he pointed out
in the debate on Jan. 4; however, his idea of energy independence
seems to include exploring more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico
and a natural gas pipeline from Latin America.
All of the Democratic candidates except Carol Moseley Braun
and Al Sharpton have come out against drilling in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge.
Clark, Dean, Edwards and Lieberman have talked about harnessing
biomass energy, yielded by burning garbage and agricultural
waste. In 2000, Dean created the Biomass Energy Resource Center
in Vermont to promote biomass heating systems in both private
and governmental buildings. Also as governor, Dean started
a clean cities coalition and the first “efficiency” utility
in the nation, and implemented tougher emissions standards.
No Cold Feet Here
On New Years Eve, Daniel Davis and Anna Itov said their
vows on blades at the Empire State Plaza ice-skating rink,
the location of many of their first dates.