Pittsfield residents demand changes to prevent police shootings / iBerkshires.com

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Residents used the open microphone portion of the city council meeting to call for change after the police shooting death of Miguel Estrella and the death of Daniel Gillis in 2017.

Estrella’s death in late March sparked a significant community response and the council has yet to react to the situation, which was also brought up during public comments.

On the agenda were two petitions calling for Pittsfield police officers to be equipped with body cameras, one from local attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo and the other from resident LeMarr Talley. Although the council did not accept the petitions, they generated a lot of conversation from the community.

“My brother’s death at the hands of the police on March 25 brought to light the issues our community faces with mental health assistance and public safety,” said Estrella’s sister, Elina Estrella.

“Although the Pittsfield Police Department allegedly has a program in place that sends a mental health worker with them when they need to help the person in mental health crisis, it was not used in the interaction of my brother with the police when they shot him, allegedly the co-respondent had already clocked in for the day,”

“Mental health ERs don’t operate on a nine-to-five schedule, in fact, according to a Harvard mental health study, these issues are often worse after 9 p.m.”

Estrella asked how the police department’s new “hub” model worked for dealing with people in crisis and what was the function of the Police Advisory and Review Board that was created after Gillis’ death.

“If the police receive funds to adopt programs to help people in crisis and prevent other tragedies from happening like the hub model and like the co-responsor program and the purchase of less lethal weapons , how come people are still dying?” Estrella asked.

“Where is the accountability when every interaction has the same outcome? When will there be funding for more reliable resources without resorting to the police? Residents should not be afraid to contact the police for help , so what are you going to do as members of the city council to make sure that a death sentence is not the result of a 911 call?”

Gillis’ girlfriend, Jacquelyn Sykes, recounted the night she saw him being shot by police in 2017. She spoke of the need for body cameras, saying that if responding officers had worn them this that day, they would have been held accountable.

Office Christopher Colello shot and killed Daniel Gillis, 36, on Taylor Street on September 1, 2017, after a call was made for a domestic incident. According to police, Gillis had initially barricaded himself in the house and was armed with a knife.

“I strongly believe that Danny was murdered in cold blood and if the police had body cameras someone would be held responsible, I called the police for help, Danny wanted to die that day and I regret for making that call,” she said.

“I disarmed Danny in front of the police, I have no training, when I came out with that knife there was an officer who already had his gun pointed at me and if the officer in front didn’t come and said who don’t shoot me I probably would be dead too Luckily I threw the knife away and walked out, when I told the officers all that was going on they ended up calling more officers , there were at least seven or eight officers present that day.

“Danny walked out the back porch, not understanding what anyone was saying to him because they were yelling at him, not trying to defuse the situation which they’re supposed to be trained to do. He went back to inside and got a knife and walked out, just as he walked out that’s when the last officer arrived on the scene and they shot him in our side yard where I live still currently.

Sykes claimed there was new video which shows two officers shooting Gillis and stressed that Colello was not held responsible. Months after the incident, the district attorney determined that the officer would not be charged with a felony for shooting Gillis.

“That day he died when they shot him, they put me straight in the police car, they asked me if he had any illnesses and they started CPR on him, then they immediately took me to the state police and had me interrogated for two hours. I, talking to me, had no idea what was going on,” she added.

“After that. I was trying to get the case, trying to figure out what was going on, the state police started making the no trespassing order, they never made it that his mother goes to see his body in the emergency room, we were never allowed to see his body, they cremated him without permission.”

Helen Moon, a former town councilor, has spoken out against police body cameras because she believes they don’t actually hold officers accountable and surveillance footage is racially biased.

She referenced a 2017 randomized controlled trial of over 2,000 officers in Washington, D.C. that found no statistically significant difference in police use of force and misconduct and a 2016 study that revealed that only about 8% of compiled video footage is actually used to prosecute police. officers.

She also referred to the 2014 experience of Derrick Price, a Florida man who was beaten due to the police story of resisting arrest which police body cameramen seemed to confirm. Moon said surveillance of a nearby building, however, showed Price had attempted to surrender.

“Data and past experience tell us that it will do very little to increase police accountability or prevent police violence, what it does, however, is pose privacy risks. It is to increasingly integrated with facial recognition technology that has proven to be racially biased and inaccurate, surveillance technology disproportionately harms marginalized communities,” she said.

“Instead, I ask you, our elected leaders, to consider investing these hundreds of thousands of dollars in supports that keep our community safe, which would have prevented Miguel Estrella’s death in the first place. With an overstretched and underfunded mental health system, Miguel’s mental health crisis was a death sentence.”

In other cases, the council was supposed to accept an $84,000 request from the Board of Health for legal counsel to shut down a Verizon cell tower at 877 South St., but had to pursue the case. Chairman Peter Marchetti explained that it is because he did not put on the agenda that the board must go into executive session for this, as it is a matter involving litigation.

Keywords: Pittsfield Police, shootout,

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