March 28, 2000
Rudolph W. Giuliani
Mayor of the City of New York
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Giuliani,
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply troubled by reports that journalist Errol Maitland of the radio station WBAI was attacked by members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) while covering the March 25 funeral of Patrick Dorismond, a Haitian-American who was fatally shot by an NYPD officer on March 16.
Maitland, 49, is a producer for the WBAI program "Wake Up Call" and technical director of the program "Democracy Now," which is broadcast on the Pacifica Radio network, of which WBAI is an affiliate.
The journalist was providing live coverage of Dorismond's funeral for WBAI via cell phone, a tape of which was reviewed by CPJ. At about 3 p.m. on Saturday, after the memorial service in Brooklyn's Holy Cross Church had ended, Maitland told WBAI that police officers were forcing a woman to the ground. WBAI continued to broadcast Maitland's report as he identified himself as a WBAI journalist and asked an officer for a statement. Maitland then announced that the police had thrown him to the ground.
"Errol was just holding the cell phone up, trying to keep some distance from the cops," said Joel Kupferman, an attorney who witnessed the incident as a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild. "And suddenly about four officers physically grabbed him and forced him to the ground." Maitland was arrested for disorderly conduct and taken to the 72nd Precinct.
Although the journalist was experiencing significant pain in the chest, shoulder, back, knees, and head, as well as breathing difficulties, he was initially denied medical treatment, according to his attorney, Michael Tarif Warren, who visited Maitland at the 72nd Precinct on the evening of March 25. After Warren's intervention, an ambulance took Maitland to Kings County Hospital Center, where he remains in the coronary intensive care unit.
At the hospital, Maitland was handcuffed to his bed and had a police guard posted outside his room, Warren said. The handcuffs and police guard were removed on March 27, when police issued a desk appearance ticket at the instigation of Judge William Miller of the Kings County Criminal Court. Maitland will have to appear in court at a later date to answer the disorderly conduct charges, according to Warren.
A spokesman at the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information confirmed Maitland's arrest to CPJ, claiming that the journalist suffered only minor injuries. A hospital spokeswoman informed CPJ that Maitland's condition is stable.
CPJ is an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, and we routinely raise our voice on behalf of colleagues who are attacked in the line of duty. We urge you to investigate this incident and would welcome any new information that might arise in the course of the investigation.
Ann K. Cooper