A candidate for City Council claimed last week that NYPD officers accosted a Black campaign staffer while he was petitioning on the Upper East Side, stopping him without legal justification and forcefully taking pages of voter signatures.
Chris Sosa, who is running to replace a term-limited Ben Kallos in the District 5 seat, said the campaign worker had been out canvassing in the neighborhood since 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 3, collecting signatures to secure Sosa’s place on the June primary ballot. At about 7:35 that evening, near the corner of East 88th Street and Second Avenue, the worker was confronted by the police.
“He reported that the NYPD stopped him and accused him of solicitation, at which point he explained that he was a canvasser for my City Council campaign,” Sosa, who was not present during the incident but was informed of what took place shortly after by the worker and the worker’s supervisor, told Our Town. Sosa said when the worker was stopped he was carrying a clipboard that bore Sosa’s campaign logo.
“They still insisted on taking his ID and checking, allegedly, for warrants. And in addition to that, they confiscated a number of legal documents, they confiscated signatures for my campaign and did not give them back to the gentleman,” Sosa said.
Given the number of missing sheets, Sosa believes the NYPD had confiscated approximately 120 voter signatures.
Our Town extended an interview request to the campaign worker through Sosa, but he did not respond. The worker is employed by Sole Strategies, a firm Sosa contracted to provide additional field staffing for his campaign.
“Active and Ongoing”
Deputy Inspector Melissa Eger, who is the commanding officer of the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct, deferred comment to an NYPD spokesperson, who said the incident is under investigation.
“As soon as the NYPD became aware of the allegation we initiated an internal investigation. That investigation is active and ongoing at this time,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Sosa said he was sadly not surprised by the police harassment he alleges took place.
“That very morning when I met with my canvassers and sent them out into the community, I had concerns for my canvassers of color, because I know of the type of incidents that occur, and the type of harassment that occurs,” said Sosa. “It’s unacceptable and it’s illegal.”
Sosa added that the city is lacking the leadership willing to hold NYPD accountable.
“We need better leadership, and that’s why in our next series of elections in June, I really hope that across the city we elect people who are going to practice the type of oversight that their constituents expect.”