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April 06, 2006
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Police chief criticized after Brooklyn neighborhood disturbance

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK- A city politician on Wednesday demanded an apology from the police department's top uniformed officer who, he said, flew into a rage and cursed out the crowd during a street disturbance in a Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.

Assemblymen Dov Hikind said numerous civilian witnesses heard Chief of Department Joseph Esposito yell "F--- the Jews" and "F--- the community" while officers struggled to tame an unruly crowd Tuesday night in Borough Park.

Esposito "lost it last night," said Hikind, a Democrat. "He thought he was in the Wild West."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, said that while officials would review the entire episode, "from what I can see the police department acted appropriately."

The unrest erupted after hundreds of residents took to the streets following what some witnesses said excessive force by officers during the arrest of a 75-year-old man who was pulled over in a routine traffic stop.

Witnesses said police shoved the man against a car.

Police officials have denied the claims, and authorities said the man, who was stopped for talking on his cell phone while driving, had resisted the officers. Two other people who meddled in the incident were also arrested, police said.

As word of the arrests spread, angry protesters _ many of them teenagers wearing traditional black suits and hats _ flooded the streets and set small fires. Some surrounded the police station and chanted, "No Justice, no peace," before officers in riot gear were dispatched to disperse the crowd.

Hikind blamed the police.

"The behavior of the young people in the street was unfortunate, but it escalated because of the police," he said.

Of Esposito, the assemblyman said: "We don't want his head. We want an apology."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly insisted he had "total confidence" in the chief.

"Sometimes in a chaotic situation things may be said that people might regret in the future," Kelly said. "But he's an outstanding commander, and I think overall the situation was handled well."

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