NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday lamented the delays in the Kawaski Trawick case, but blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the slow process while defending what he called a more empowered and transparent Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) under his leadership.
In April 2019, Trawick, 32, had called 911 to report a fire after he was locked out of his apartment in supportive housing. Trawick, who suffered from mental health problems, demanded to know why the responding police officers were opening his front door. They responded by ordering him to drop a knife he was holding, as Trawick insisted that he had the knife because he was in the process of cooking.
Police body camera footage, released in December 2020, showed Trawick fell to the floor after being tased. He got back on his feet and, while still holding a knife and stick, rushed toward the officers. That's when Officer Brendan Thompson opened fire, killing him.
The CCRB in June substantiated misconduct charges against the two police officers involved in the killing of Trawick, although they were never criminally charged. The police department needs to officially serve the CCRB charges so an administrative trial can begin, but the mayor did not give NY1 political anchor Errol Louis a timeframe in his weekly “Mondays with the Mayor” interview on “Inside City Hall,” only saying it “should happen very quickly.”
When pushed by Louis about delays in the Trawick case and how long it took to release the footage, de Blasio said while he agrees the release of police body camera footage needs to be "a hell of a lot quicker" going forward, the pandemic had a lot to due with the delay.
“If there hadn’t been a global pandemic in between, I would agree with you 110%. But let’s be fair: a huge amount happened in the meantime,” the mayor said. “I agree with you if you say, ‘Doesn’t it need to be a hell of a lot quicker and better going forward?’ Yes. But we’ve only now gotten a whole new set of better rules, a much stronger CCRB, a disciplinary matrix — we’re in a whole new reality.”
Meanwhile, days after the agency in charge of administering health services at Rikers Island raised concerns about the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the jail, and asked the City Council to to request state or federal assistance, de Blasio said he’d be willing to get help to remedy the situation.
“We’ve already been talking to Albany about a lot of changes we need and legislation that we need,” de Blasio said. “We’re ready to work with any other level of government to get help to address the issues we’re facing, for sure.”
In the last year, 10 people have died — including five who took their own lives — on Rikers Island as chronic staffing problems continue to plague the city’s largest jail.
De Blasio said working hand and hand with the state could potentially lead to “hundreds and hundreds” of inmates being released from Rikers to potentially alleviate things, and again said the court system needs to process cases at full capacity. Advocates denouncing the jail complex’s deplorable living conditions want prosecutors and judges to use their discretion to send fewer people to jails and to release more people from jails, the mayor to use his authority to grant work release to some serving sentences and Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign the “Less is More” Act to keep people with technical or non-criminal parole violations out of Rikers.
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Watch the full interview above.
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