Last year, law enforcement and civil rights groups joined the Chamberlain family at a press conference in Westchester County to announce they would not rest until the police officers were brought to justice in the fatal shooting Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a retired corrections officer and former marine.
Last week, White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong told Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. that Steven Hart, the White Plains police officer accused of using racial slurs during the 2011 shooting incident involving his father, had been fired. An 11-year police veteran, Hart had been suspended without pay since July 2012 after departmental charges.
“[Hart] had a departmental hearing, and after reviewing the findings, I thought that the best thing moving forward—for the department and the community—was that he be separated from service,” Chong said.
Chamberlain, 68, was shot dead in his own home last November by Officer Anthony Carelli in White Plains after Chamberlain mistakenly set off his LifeAid medical alert pendant. When the police arrived, Chamberlain refused to let them in. Questions have arisen as to whether cops used racial epithets to antagonize Chamberlain before forcing their way into his apartment.
Police fired bean bags at Chamberlain before he was shot. Carelli said Chamberlain was about to stab another officer. After an investigation, a grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved.
Lawyers for the Chamberlain family raised issues of what they believe are problems of racial bias and brutality within the White Plains Police Department. Hart and two other officers, along with the city and the Police Department, are now defendants in a $21 million federal lawsuit brought by the family.
“It’s a small but significant step in getting justice for the murder of my father,” said the younger Chamberlain. “However, removing one officer is not sufficient to address the serious issues occasioned by the Chamberlain shooting. Mr. Hart used the racial slurs, but he didn’t pull the trigger. That officer should also be fired.