Everyone now rails against the police - one of the coercive arms of the state - in the aftermath and public fallout of a white Minneapolis cop murdering an unarmed Black man in full public view - prime time murder. Indeed, the sheer brutality, terror, and callous disregard for human life exhibited by an arrogant, angry cop with a long record and history of abuse, jolted the benign sensitivities of even the most seasoned spectator. Many people were shocked, especially white people, long accustomed to looking the other way, every time giving the cops the benefit of the doubt. The Black man or woman "deserved it," "he/she had a criminal record," "he/she did not obey the police" and on and on. As if all that, even if true, somehow justified the illegal and unlawful killings of unarmed Black people. And as national and international anger spilled over and out on the streets of cities and capitals around the world, there is the hope that George Floyd's public execution would finally expose and help address the age-old issue of police misconduct, especially their history of killing innocent Black men, women and children with impunity.
But in order to get long-incoming reforms - radical and deep-going reforms - there MUST be an examination of the system that allows police officers to literally "get off with murder," and how this culture of impunity is buttressed, encouraged and supported by the very institutions and legal organizations that American taxpayer dollars pay, fund and support. So, let us peel back these incestuous relationships hiding in plain sight that are complicit, enable, aid and abet police brutality.
Every politician in office today aggressively courts the support of the local police department. They kow-tow to all-powerful police unions that demand and get the most privileged practices and norms that are denied the very people that pay police officer's salaries. And there is good reason why politicians want to be on the good side of police departments. For example, in New York City when it comes to flexing their muscles on the "public battlefield," numbers come into play a lot. The NYPD staffs roughly 55,000 employees (potential voters). Roughly 72% of that number is uniformed officers. When you compare that to the rest of the world, the NYPD ranks No. 65 in sheer manpower. With the PBA, the union representing uniformed cops, being an aggressive political force, staying on its good side helps politicians get elected and re-elected. One such perk is that when a NYPD officer commits a criminal act (like shooting a civilian) he or she does not have to talk to investigators for 48 hours. No New Yorker - outside of the NYPD - has such a corrupt privilege.
Moreover, politicians - Democrats and Republicans - spend heavily on their police departments. Again, using the NYPD as an example, its budget is $5.5 billion and its militarized arsenal includes helicopters (12), armored vehicles, boats, and other war zone military materials. All across the United States for the past 20 years we've seen the militarization of police departments. When there is public unrest these departments trot out their latest military hardware that was surplus war materials from America's conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places. So, unless something radically happens don't expect anything to change outside of the noises and lip service that politicians are so great at doing.
Police do the arrests and District Attorneys prosecute. District Attorneys, as we say in Brooklyn, can indict a ham sandwich. And they decide how to set up the Grand Juries. One former judge told me that DAs weed out "black-sounding names" and decide what they want the Grand Jury to hear. In this context, there are copious records of DAs protecting and shielding criminal cops that commit illegal acts, presenting information that forces Grand Juries to return no indictments.
I remember a case where an NYPD cop shot and killed an unarmed mentally ill Guyanese man in his home in front of his mother. The cop reported that the victim had a knife, lunged at him, so he was forced to kill him. They (the NYPD) smeared the man's mother who rejected the lie. The cop walked, of course. But the mother could not let go. It took her about 8 years of fighting to clear her name - right up to the supreme court. What did the District Attorney do? Well, he deep sixed a report by a then young doctor who was an intern at the time who clearly stated that there was no knife. The Grand Jury did not get to hear that. The City of New York settled the case.
Many years ago, the 67th Precinct in Brooklyn was the domain of a particular rogue cop (I do not remember his name but he drove around in a scooter/golf car vehicle terrorizing Flatbush and Utica Avenue residents). It was the time of the formation of the "dollar van" industry. He hated not only the vans but the "monkeys" that drove them. One evening he spotted one such driver (I think his last name was Baily. He was a Jamaican) at a Utica Avenue gas station filling up his van. Arrested and brought to the 67th Precinct this 20 something year old, healthy and strong young man would never walk again. He would spend the rest of his life as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. The cops told the Grand Jury that he rammed his head into the cell wall at the precinct sustaining massive spinal damage as a result. The cops walked - again. What did they do? They handcuffed this poor man behind his back, then jerked his arms sharply upward so his head tilted downward then they rammed him into the wall in the jail. Again, the city eventually settled the case.
They're supposed to be impartial and administer the law equally and fairly. But the opposite is the case. Once a Black man or woman comes before ANY white judge there is an automatic presumption of guilt. In Brooklyn, in ALMOST EVERY CASE involving an NYPD cop the judge starts from a position that presumes that the cop is ALWAYS right. As a former judge told me - its guilty until proven innocent. But the collaboration to put young Black men in jail does not end there. Cops routinely arrest young Black kids for the flimsiest of offenses - like riding their bicycles on the sidewalk.
Cops harass, hassle and break up peaceful, non-violent restaurants or bars events, seize their drinks, and equipment, and hand out hefty citations knowing that the judge will uphold them - no questions asked. They do this over and over again and when they can't find any chargeable offense, they make it up. It's the NYPD's "arrest quota system" and that quota is met by how many Black and Latino young men a cop can arrest - literally for anything. Of course, the NYPD has publicly denied the existence of such quotas and cops do not talk about it because it's part of the "Blue Wall of Silence." But I've worked with cops for many years and I've been told that quotas do exist.
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