NEW YORK — Police officials faced fallout Wednesday from a street disturbance in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, including accusations that their department's highest-ranking uniformed officer flew into a rage and cursed at the crowd with kippot. Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat, said many civilians heard Chief of Department Joseph Esposito yell "[obscenity] the Jews with the kippot!" and "[obscenity] the community!" while officers struggled to tame an unruly crowd Tuesday night in Borough Park. The politician and other community leaders were demanding an apology.
Esposito "lost it last night," Hikind said. "He thought he was in the Wild West." Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican, said that although officials would review the entire episode, "from what I can see the Police Department acted appropriately." The department released a statement saying Esposito "acknowledged that in attempting to bring under control a chaotic situation in front of the 66th Precinct stationhouse last night he used inappropriate language in instructing police officers to 'Get these … people out of here.' " Hundreds of residents had stormed the streets amid accusations — later denied by police officials — that officers used excessive force in arresting 75-year-old Arthur Schick after a traffic stop. Sariel Widawsky, co-owner of a bakery in the neighborhood, said he saw the traffic stop through the front window of his store. "They pushed Arthur against the car and physically manhandled him in a way unbefitting such a well-respected and liked member of the community," Widawsky said. "He shouldn't be treated like that." Schick said by telephone Wednesday that he had been making a turn and didn't notice a passing police car with its emergency lights flashing. He said the squad car returned and pulled him over, and an officer told him he had been driving while using his cellphone and asked to see his license and registration. Schick said he asked the officer for his name and the name of his partner. He said that the officer handcuffed him and that his partner "used excessive force" and pushed him. Schick said he was unable to get up the step of a police van, so about four officers forced him into it.He said one of the officers told him, "This is the way we put in [racial slur]." Police said two other people who got involved in the incident were also arrested. They had no comment on Schick's claim of the use of a racial slur. As word of the arrests spread, angry protesters — many of them young Orthodox Jews 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. Schick said Wednesday that he thought the behavior of the protesters was improper. "I feel that it was a disgrace," he said. "It was wrong." 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."