An African American woman in New York City could spend a year in prison for allegedly assaulting an officer after being dragged from her apartment and left naked in a public hallway by a dozen “rookie” officers.
Denise Stewart, 50, is on trial in Brooklyn Criminal Court on charges of assaulting an officer in July 2014 when they attempted to arrest her on charges of beating her child.
Stewart’s 12-year-old daughter said her mother and older sister beat her in the head with a belt, according to the criminal complaint.
“All of this happened during the course of a training exercise involving rookies with little or no experience who were out and about looking for hands-on experience,” Stewart’s attorney, Amy Rameau, said Wednesday during her opening arguments.
Police were called to Stewart’s apartment building for a separate incident when a noise was heard from her door, said Rameau. The officers knocked on her door and demanded entry.
Stewart, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes and uses an oxygen tank, was just getting out of the shower when she answered the door in a towel.
“You will see this police culture and how police conduct themselves in communities like East New York and Brownsville versus the Upper East Side,” said Rameau.
The incident, which was captured on a neighbor’s mobile phone, caused Stewart to drop her towel, leaving her exposed with only white underwear. Stewart’s older son tried to intervene and was also arrested.
“The police officers involved conducted themselves deplorably. This is about the blue wall of silence. None of them will come forward with the truth, blunder and embarrassment to the NYPD,” said Rameau.
The incident comes at a time when anti-police sentiment is high across the US due to a surge of unjustified killings of unarmed African Americans and other minorities over the past several years.