Councilman Rory Lancman will host a film screening about excessive police force on Oct. 18 at the Central Library in Jamaica, which will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, the documentary filmmaker Damian Kudelka and more.
Lancman, who is running for Queens District Attorney next year, introduced a “Chokehold Bill” to the floor of City Council shortly after the 2014 death of Garner. The Staten Island man died soon after police put him in a chokehold for selling loose cigarettes.
The Queens councilman wants people in the community to see this documentary, titled “By Any Means Necessary.”
“I sponsor the chokehold bill. It’s the bill that will make it a crime for an officer to perform a chokehold,” said Lancman. “Circumstances have attached me to the issue of preventing chokeholds that resulted in the death of Eric Garner and the whole issue of excessive use of force by the police.”
The documentary also examines why police departments use excessive force, as well as why its used against non-violent minor offenders, according to Lancman.
“This is something different than me writing an oped or me writing a speech,” said Lancman. “It’s important for people to really understand that excessive force by the police is a deadly problem and that there are things that we need to do about it. Hopefully the documentary will reach some people to debate on this issue through another medium.”
The man behind “By Any Means Necessary” is Kudelka, a documentary filmmaker who grew up on Long Island and left the financial sector in Manhattan after seeing the viral video of Garner saying “I can’t breathe” moments before he lost consciousness while being arrested on July 17, 2014.
“Like many other people I saw the video of [Garner’s] arrest, and the two emotions that I had was being really sad and outraged,” said Kudelka. “I just couldn’t understand why the NYPD would arrest someone, let alone use such force against someone selling cigarettes. I just felt there was something broken in police rules in engagement.”
Kudelka had an idea about initiating a dialogue about NYPD policing in 2014, and after leaving the financial sector to pursue a creative career in 2016, he started working on the documentary and also got in touch with Carr to talk to her about her son’s death.
“Because of those feelings of outrage I decided to quit my job and just try to find out why and get answers about why this could have occurred and that’s kind of the beginning of the story,” said Kudelka. “My general approach was to focus on the NYPD, and policing in general, but I also most certainly wanted to talk to [Carr] and it was delicate, emotional, and challenging, because her son died.”
The hardest part of the film for Kudelka was finding the balance of examining policing by the NYPD and having a raw conversation with Carr.
“You could be having a conversation about the technical and practical aspects of the police, but at the back of your mind you are always thinking about how she feels and what she has been through, and continues to go through,” said Kudelka. “If there is one thing that I wanted to share about policing it’s that … I recognize it’s a government agency … but unlike any other government function it’s the only one that can take your life and liberty, and that is an awesome power.”
As a result of the unique role police play as an agency, Kudelka believes communities and citizens should also have an equally distinct role in the oversight of that entity.
While he does not have any particular suggestion for a reform model for policing in New York and doesn’t claim to be an expert in law enforcement he has cited examples that he has seen in other departments throughout the U.S. in his film.
“There are certainly different models out there,” said Kudelka. “One model I did see was the Seattle Police Commission … a citizen run committee that has authority over the management of the Seattle Police Department, real authority.”
After editing approximately 200 hours worth of footage, Kudelka finished the 52-minute film this summer and then approached Lancman’s office about the film.
“We’ve been in touch with Damian for a couple months and he was very aware of the Councilman’s work on this issue and wanted to connect with us,” according to Lancman’s spokesman.
“People should come out and see this film,” said Lancman. “Hopefully it will motivate people to demand policies that prevent tragedies from happening again and they should push their elected officials to make sure there are no more Eric Garners.”
The screening takes place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 18 in the auditorium of the Central Library, located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd.