Velazquez Demands Answers over Today’s Sunset Park Arrest & Heavy Police Presence
Washington, DC – Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has sent a letter to the United States Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) Chief Postal Inspector regarding an arrest this morning in Sunset Park. The incident has raised questions over the handling of the arrest including the level of force pursued and the heavy police presence in the immediate area.
“As you know, public distrust of law enforcement has increased significantly given the deaths of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless other innocent civilians,” wrote Velázquez. “This is not the first time federal agents have generated confusion and anxiety in our community. Earlier this year, immigration agents in Brooklyn shot a man in the face during an immigration enforcement operation. This recent incident by postal inspection officers, who allegedly lead this arrest with little to no advance coordination with local law enforcement, has seriously deteriorated the community’s trust.”
The text of the letter can be found below.
A PDF copy of the letter is available online here.
October 21, 2020
Chief Postal Inspector
United States Postal Inspection Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, D.C. 20260
Dear Chief Postal Inspector Barksdale:
I am writing to express my concern regarding an incident involving officers of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). This morning, an arrest was made at a residential address near 46th Street and 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. It is my understanding that officers were executing a search and arrest warrant related to the mailing of controlled substances via the postal service. My staff have been advised that officers arrived at the door and violently knocked it down to gain entry into the premises. Because of reported Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity in the area, a number of community members believed that these officers were affiliated with immigration enforcement or removal operations. To add to the confusion, officers would not identify themselves or produce a warrant when asked.
As you know, public distrust of law enforcement has increased significantly given the deaths of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless other innocent civilians. This is not the first time federal agents have generated confusion and anxiety in our community. Earlier this year, immigration agents in Brooklyn shot a man in the face during an immigration enforcement operation. This recent incident by postal inspection officers, who allegedly lead this arrest with little to no advance coordination with local law enforcement, has seriously deteriorated the community’s trust.
Given the above particulars, I respectfully request answers to the following questions:
- Did USPIS officers receive a briefing over the force appropriate for this arrest? Why did officers execute this warrant with the amount of force exhibited in this incident? How often are warrants executed by USPIS officers with this level of force?
- It is my understanding that a number of officers involved did not identify themselves as being USPIS officers. Please provide an explanation as to why some officers did not identify themselves with your agency.
- Was the USPIS Commanding Officer (CO) on the scene concerned with officers displaying any identifiers for members of the public to associate the agents as USPIS? If so, what efforts were made, if any, to ensure the public that agents were legitimately from USPIS and not other agencies?
- Were any other Federal agencies involved in the execution of the warrant and arrest?
- Did any officers executing this warrant wear body cameras? If not, what is the rationale for not providing officers with such equipment?
- It is my understanding that the detainee may have been arrested without an interpreter present. How did USPIS ensure that the detainee’s rights were fully explained?
- Where is the individual being detained?
- It is my understanding that the New York Police Department (NYPD) was called after your agency began executing the arrest and when community members began asking officers to identify themselves and produce a warrant, which they refused to do. Why were no USPIS officers providing information to the public to reduce confusion?
- Will your agency commit to a full review of the facts surrounding this incident and provide a report on shortcomings and the remedies USPIS will employ to ensure an incident like this does not reoccur?
Your answers to these questions will be helpful in providing the information our community needs. Given the confusion generated by this incident, I respectfully request a response to this inquiry no later than Friday, October 23, 2020.
Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress