Longtime attorney runs for City Council

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 2/8/2013, 12:39 p.m.
Longtime attorney runs for City Council

After years of serving as an attorney and community activist, Neville Mitchell says he's ready to move into politics. The attorney known best for his involvement in civil rights cases, including the Sean Bell case, is running for the City Council's District 12 seat in the Bronx left vacant by Larry Seabrook, who was recently convicted on embezzlement charges.

Using the slogan "Now is the Time," Mitchell is running under the United Neighbors Party and will officially announce his run for office this week. While not a resident of the Bronx for some time, making his home in Brooklyn, he says he's ready to be a public servant to the community that served him.

The special election for the council seat will be held on Nov. 6, coinciding with the presidential election.

Mitchell grew up in District 12, which covers Co-op City, Baychester and Wakefield, and said that his family still lives there. His run, he said, is inspired by the injustices he has seen around the city and the urgency for change. Recently, District 12 has been plagued by gun violence and police brutality, including the fatal police shooting of Ramarley Graham.

"I've been on the sideline for a long time. Some people are just doing a dance," Mitchell said. "We keep having the same things happen over and over again."

Born in Jamaica, Mitchell came to the United States when he was 13 and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. He then went to City College and later earned a law degree from the University of Maryland. Over the years, he held many positions across the city, including teaching at an alternative school, Rikers Island and the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

However, his fight against police brutality has been his passion for the past several years. While he says he does not dislike the police--his father was an NYPD officer--he has been involved with major trials involving police mistreatment of people of color. Some cases he worked closely with include the "Central Park Five" and Amadou Diallo.

"All of these cases point to the same problem--a lack of respect by the Police Department," he said. "Commissioner Ray Kelly has had Black people killed and he still has his job. He should have been gone long ago."

While he's been fighting the good fight against the police, Mitchell is also adamant about eradicating violence in the community. Over the last few months, three shootings have taken place in one park in the district.

"I think our leadership has not stepped up and protected our young people," he said. "You've got to do something for the young people, not just speak to them or address their concerns. If you don't have the respect to find out what youth issues are, you have no connection to them."

If elected, Mitchell will stay in office for the remainder of the position's current term. After that, he would have the option to run for re-election in 2013. For now, he's going to begin his campaign by immediately reaching out to as many people as he can, particularly through social networking. In the meantime, he plans on having community forums in District 12 along with a gun buyback program and voter registration drives.