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Justice for Jonas coalition calls police ‘malicious’ in arrest of Amherst man which was videotaped

— A group calling itself Justice for Jonas is calling on the Northampton Police Department to drop a civil infraction against an Amherst man stemming from a March arrest that was recorded and widely distributed.

“The force used on Jonas Correia was unethical, harmful, but above all, extremely unnecessary,” Camilla Carpio, a junior at Amherst Regional High School and member of the coalition, said before the City Council Thursday.

Northampton Police Chief Russell P. Sienkiewicz on Friday defended the actions of officers who responded to a call outside a Pleasant Street bar March 31 and arrested Correia on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

“As per our position and the confirmation by the DA, my officers had ample probable cause for the arrest,” the chief said in an email.

Correia’s arrest was captured on a video and posted on YouTube. In the video, two officers can be seen bringing Correia, of 12A Longmeadow Drive, Amherst, to the ground outside Tully O’Reilly’s and placing him in restraints after a third officer sprayed him in the face with pepper spray.

Police alleged that Correia threatened a member of the bar’s staff, prompting police to subdue him. His arrest followed another involving a man who allegedly punched a bar employee after refusing to leave.

Charges against Correia were later dropped by the Northwestern district attorney’s office, with the Northampton District Court agreeing to convert the disorderly conduct charge to a civil infraction.

Sienkiewicz said that neither his department nor the district attorney’s office will drop the civil infraction for disorderly conduct.

The chief said a week ago that an internal review of the incident and the actions of officers at the scene concluded that “no misconduct was identified.”

The DA’s office, based on its own review of the incident, said police used no more force than was necessary in arresting Correia. Sienkiewicz has said the response complied with the department’s use of force and arrest policies, established under the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission standards and the Massachusetts Police Training Council’s guidelines.

The state dropped the criminal charges after it determined Correia did not resist police once it was clear he knew or should have known he was being placed into custody.

Members of the coalition, speaking before the City Council, called the arrest of Correia that night “malicious and unnecessary” and said that his rights were violated.

They urged the council to launch an independent review of police department actions and questioned if there have been similar incidents in the past.

“What other incidents have taken place over the years with Northampton police that weren’t on video and that someone had to plead out?” asked Garret Schenck, of Sunderland.

Sienkiewicz refuted this claim, saying his department is one of the few in western Massachusetts using dash cameras in frontline cruisers. These cameras record many situations of officer interaction with the public to ensure professional police conduct and accountability, he said.

“The stated claim that there must be other ‘unrecorded’ acts of misconduct just isn’t true given the prolific use of our dash cams on patrol,” Sienkiewicz said in his statement.

“On this particular night the cruisers on scene dealing with the ongoing disturbance just weren’t positioned in a manner to capture Mr. Correia’s actions,” he said.

Jordana Rosenberg, of 251 Bridge Road in Northampton, called the Correia incident a “chilling repetition” of the mistreatment of Jason Vassell, an African-American student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who was arrested in a 2008 incident in which he claimed to stab two white men in self-defense.

Charges were later dropped, but Vassell’s case became a rallying point for many who charged that racist attitudes played a role in the prosecution led by the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

Related

Northampton City Councilor Jesse Adams raises questions about use of force in arrest of Jonas Correia

Monday, October 7, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — A city councilor still has concerns about the Police Department’s use of force in the March arrest of an unarmed suspect, even after hearing Monday a detailed explanation of its policy. At-large City Councilor Jesse Adams, chairman of the public safety committee, asked for the informational meeting with the Northampton Police Department after the use of pepper spray …

Legacy Comments5

My name is Tom Nosal and I have personally experienced several acts of unruly violence by the NORTHAMPTON POLICE DEPARTMENT. If you are interested in my experiences with the NPD please type my name into Facebook where you can read "some" of my recent experiences....and believe me there are many more to come. It is my firm belief that the NPD is over-represented by young white men who regularly practice "bullying" throughout our city. I believe that the Police Department endorses violence and then rallies to cover up their own tracts. It is my intention to draw National attention to the rampant white supremacy and sexism that prevail in what used to be called a nice place to freely express creativity without fear of being hurt or punished. Such is no longer the case. Northampton has allowed it's honorable history of defending Civil and Human Rights to be seriously tarnished by arrogant white police officers who routinely act like terrorists. I demand the resignation of Northampton Police Chief Russ Sienkiewicz and it is my intention to demand the firing of any Police Officer and Court Officer and even a Northampton Judge who's behavior has been determined to be unconscionable. This story is just the tip of an iceberg of injustices that continually slip under the proverbial dirty rug. Thomas Myers Nosal M.S.W. Smith College Graduate School of Social Work 1983.

And who can forget the video of former judge Mike Ryan's arrest by the NPD and how unnecessarily violent it was? Atty. William A. Norris (ret)

I have numerous reports of Police Officers who harass and punish people who they do not like. It is my intention to document these cases and bring National attention to Northampton's disgraceful White Supremacist ruling bullies who use guns, mace, hand cuffs, accompanists, and high tech gadgets in an attempt to subdue and victimize our city folks. Tom Nosal M.S.W., Smith College SSW '83

I have viewed the arrest video many times and I honestly cannot see anything that Mr. Correia did that was a crime for which an arrest should have been made, must less a violent arrest with pepper spray and forced to the ground. He appears to be holding up a cell phone, nothing more. Can someone from the NPD explain to us exactly what they consider his "disorderly conduct" was? And can't Mr. Correia sue for false arrest and violation of his civil rights to be on the street holding up his cell phone? Also, where is the Northampton Human Rights Commission on this episode -- MIA?

I am a Human Rights Activist and a Smith College Graduate in Social Work ( 1983). I have a long history of "street work" and I was the manager of the largest outpatient emergency crisis intervention program in the U.S.A. ( South Shore Mental Health Center, Quincy, Ma ). I left Northampton in 2002 to take care of my elderly mom with Alzheimer's disease and I've recently returned to Northampton. Since returning, I have personally witnessed acts of violence and bullying by the NPD. I will never stop fighting against injustice and I believe our NPD must be revamped immediately. I would never have allowed our Police Force to become so corrupt if I had remained in Hamp, but I had a higher calling. Now I am back and now I am determined to change Northampton's Police Force . It's my new calling. I don't ever stop until I win justice for my city. Tom Nosal MSW

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