Today former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is often painted as "America's Mayor" after his decisive response to the attacks on September 11, 2001.
What is often forgotten and ignored is the well worn streak of brutality and totalitarianism that runs like a river through both his public and private actions. Let us look back to before the 9/11, to 1999 and Giuliani's dramatic reforming of the NYPD for both the better and the worst.
From Human Rights Watch.
New York is enjoying a dramatic drop in violent crime, with some attributing it to the police department's emphasis on more minor, "quality of life," crimes, such as graffiti, squeegee windshield washing, and subway turnstile-jumping, pursued as a way to demonstrate control of the streets and to apprehend individuals who may have outstanding arrest warrants against them.- Advertisement -
Police abuse experts have wondered why, if the police leadership is eager to stop crime by aggressively pursuing minor criminals and crimes, it is failing to demonstrate the same aggressiveness in dealing with officers before they commit more serious offenses.
In 1997 the Giuliani dichotomy between being tough on civilians who commit minor offense and light on police who abuse their authority gradually began to be exposed and led to several tragic incidents.
First there was the wrongful arrest, torture and sexual abuse of Abner Louima by NYPD officers who mistakenly thought he had insulted one of them outside of a night club.
A federal court jury in Brooklyn convicted three New York City cops March 6 of conspiring to cover up the 1997 station house torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
Thomas Weise and Thomas Bruder each face five years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation into the savage assault on Louima. The third cop, Charles Schwarz, was convicted in a previous trial as an accomplice with Justin Volpe in torturing the immigrant worker inside the bathroom of the 70th Precinct in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
Volpe, convicted of sodomizing Louima with a broken piece of a broomstick, tearing a one-inch hole in his rectum and bladder, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Schwarz, who was found guilty of holding Louima down during the attack, faces up to a life sentence.
The three cops greeted the verdict with disbelief and rage. "They're f—-ing liars; this is f—-ing bullshit," exclaimed Schwarz, who turned his wrath on his lawyer. As he was taken back into custody he slammed the wall and shouted out other obscenities.- Advertisement -
Let me point out again that Louima wasn't even the guy they were looking for in the first place! This kind of brutality doesn't just happen, there has to be a permissive attitude in play at the department in order for anyone - let alone several officers - to believe that kidnapping and assaulting someone this way, not to mention intimidating witness and the victim to "keep quiet" could possibly work.
And how did Rudy react at the time? (From Human Rights Watch)
In August 1997, after the alleged torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by police officers made national headlines and outraged city residents, the anti-crime record of the mayor and police department was tarnished. In uncharacteristic fashion, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir condemned the officers implicated in the incident as well as those who reportedly did nothing to stop it or report it.2 These were welcome condemnations, but conflicted with the mayor's persistent and seemingly automatic defense of officers accused of abusive treatment - even when he lacked a factual basis to do so - in his first term.
So did Rudy then take decisive steps to correct the problem? Not really.