Officers in Sean Bell shooting acquitted

I don’t want to detract from the Seal Press debate, but I guess we’ll just have lots of things to discuss this weekend. Just saw this: the officers who shot Sean Bell and his friends more than 50 times have been acquitted.

It was delivered in a packed courtroom and was heard by, among others, the slain man’s parents and his fiancée. Mr. Bell’s family sat silently as Justice Cooperman spoke from the bench. Behind them, a woman was heard to ask, “Did he just say, ‘Not guilty?’ ”

Yeah. That was pretty much my reaction when I heard. What kills me is this part, though:

The acquittals do not necessarily mean the officers’ legal battles are over. Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the three men could still face disciplinary action from the Police Department, and that he had been asked to wait on any internal measures until the United States attorney’s office determines whether or not it would pursue federal charges against them.

I’ve been following the Sean Bell shooting coverage for awhile now, and I’ve seen this language used in a number of news articles — this weird, almost anxious insistence that “even if” the officers aren’t convicted, that they’ll still Suffer, Suffer Horribly via lawsuits or some other means. I actually started noticing it several weeks ago, long before the verdict, almost as an attempt to appease the anger they knew was coming. I’ll gripe about the media bias reflected in these news agencies making excuses for murderers some other time, because I have another point.

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t fucking matter whether the officers spend the rest of their lives in debt up to their eyeballs, or whether the feds prosecute them as a consolation prize. What matters here — what we must never forget it — is that a young man is dead, and he shouldn’t be. He did not die in a vacuum. He didn’t suddenly trip and fall on 50+ bullets. The cops didn’t just randomly start shooting at anybody. They shot at three young black men because they assumed, without any proof to the contrary, that they were dangerous.

This is called racial profiling. It’s also called murder — except, apparently, in the state of New York. And what this says to me is that even if the feds convict these officers, Sean Bell’s own community does not value his life. The officers who were supposed to protect him — also members of that community — have now been given carte blanche to kill more people for the same racist reason. And every dark-skinned person in the state of New York now gets to feel just a little less safe.

Again. Because damn if this shit doesn’t seem to happen every other week.

I’m very, very angry right now. If there are any protests being planned about this, I’m there. But until then I need a safe outlet for my anger, and I’ve found this as one possibility: the ACLU’s campaign against racial profiling. I don’t like everything the ACLU does, but I respect them for actively pursuing equal justice for all. I think I’ll send them a donation today. Won’t do the Bell family any good, or give those officers the punishment they deserve for taking a life. Won’t even make me feel much better. But it’s something.

42 Responses

  1. I’m not surprised by this verdict. I was expecting it. I was hoping to be wrong. What is required here is an organized response. There is a rally planned for today —

    FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2008
    5:30pm

    The Queens DA’s Office
    located at
    125-01 Queens Blvd.
    Queens, NY
    (between Hoover Ave & 82nd Ave.)
    (E or F train to Union Turnpike)

    For more information about the April 25th rally/community speak-out, Peoples’ Justice, and other cases of police violence go to: http://www.peoplesjustice.org and myspace.com/peoplesjustice or email info@peoplesjustice.org.

  2. Thank you. I’m still at the sputtering incoherently stage on this one. Because apparently nothing has changed since the days of Guiliani and the Diallo shooting, except the cops use even more bullets to stop unarmed black men now.

  3. A lot of people act like the police should catch a break in situations like this, because their job is so hard and stressful, but I think that the opposite should be true: Police officers have powers that the rest of us do not have, and should be held to the highest standard in excercizing those powers. Shooting people to death because they “think” that they “may” be dangerous is unacceptable. You shouldn’t be a police officer if you can’t handle the pressures of the job without blowing people away.

  4. I don’t understand how “NOT GUILTY” happened in this case. I read up as much as possible, and it seemed pretty apparent that the Police were at fault for racial profiling and assumption without cause, illegal use of deadly force.

    Ugh!

  5. John: Exactly. No one is forced to become a police officer. Anyone who does decide to take the job knows that he or she may be put in a dangerous situation. He or she should be willing to put him/herself in danger rather than allow a civilian to be put in danger–including danger from him/herself and fellow police officers.

    jenn: Thanks. I’ll plan on being there.

  6. I wasn’t surprised, given the track record in NYC. They get more prosecutions I think b/c they use grand juries in cases like this but whether it’s a jury in Albany or a judge in Queens, they acquit.

    Here and in many places where D.A.s make the decisions, , they don’t prosecute. Never have, never will in many places. We had three unarmed shootings including those of two Black men in six months, both accused of arming themselves in an officer’s taser. Case number one, I read everything public on it, even had to deal with innuendo that I was under investigation for allegedly accessing confidential materal (which never happened) but they don’t want people reading these investigations and when you get to the interviews of civilian witnesses v officers, you’ll find out why.

    Differences in accounts between civilian witnesses or within each statement are maximized while those involving officers are minimized. That happened here and what added to it was that the officers never testified b/c if they did, they would have been cross-examined using prior testimony (i.e. grand jury testimony) to impeach. I predict there would have been more conflicting testimony among them. There were already problems with those not charged who did testify. But the judge is going to side with the officers’ no matter what and the law that he uses sides with them as well. It’s written that way.

    If people want the feds to intervene, you’ll have to make noise and protest. Even U.S. attorneys have told me that it’s important to do that so their bosses won’t call them off of investigations.

  7. I agree with Dianne. This is Diallo all over again. He wasn’t the first, and I’m sure that Bell won’t be the last.

    I want to be open-minded and believe that there is some reason for no conviction, but WTF else could it be that motivated these policemen to shoot a man 50 em-effin times?!? And in NYC, where they have already laid down the ground rules that say you can’t be black and have a run in with the cops, too? OH. HELL. NO. I don’t believe for one second that this is anything more than racial profiling to the most extreme. You don’t shoot a man 50 times because he might be dangerous.

  8. I agree OneShySistah, it’s the shooting 50 times that I don’t get. There have been conflicting accounts here, but it seems like Bell, Guzman and the others reasonably feared a carjacking, since it sounds like the officer was undercover and didn’t identify himself. Bell and the others thought they were in danger of a carjack and just wanted to escape, that’s why they hopped into the car– they just wanted to get home, they were fleeing, not attacking. And people attack Sean for having alcohol in his system– so what? Sounds like he’d designated a driver already, but circumstances got so dangerous that they all made a quick decision to leave the premises in a hurry. Nothing unusual about it.

    I have some sympathy for cops in general, they have a tough job with tough calls, but this was just inexcusable. I have white, Latino and Asian friends backing us up on this, so this is hardly an unusual conclusion. This was, without any doubt, an awful act of manslaughter against a human being, and a decent one at that, taking care of his family.

    Despite the anger we all justifiably have due to the injustice of the Sean Bell case, we need to harness this anger toward productive uses.

    If things are ever going to improve for African-Americans, we have to redouble our efforts to gain social, political and economic power here.

    Remember, time and demographics are both on our side. Whites now have a birth rate well below replacement in the USA, while the African-American population grows steadily both by natural growth and immigration from Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean. Even some Blacks immigrating to the USA from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. (BTW if any of you can speak Spanish and/or Portuguese, please encourage our Black brethren in Latin America, especially from Brazil, to emigrate to the USA. There’s strength in numbers.)

    I know Blacks and Latinos have often been at loggerheads, but we’re natural allies– both fighting against White oppression, with Latinos having been invaded in multiple wars by the Anglos in Florida, the Mexican-American War and Spanish-American War. Latinos lost half of Mexico when Anglos invaded in 1848, and were ethnically cleansed by Anglos so that they could start slavery in the conquered territories. Blacks and Latinos today are natural partners in the fight for social justice, both fighting for affirmative action and against discrimination. Spanish is an easy language to learn, and the more that we reach out to each other, speak some Spanish ourselves, and support our Latino brothers and sisters, the more our alliance is cemented.

    I’d say if anything, the key for us is to gain political power, and to do that, it’s best to concentrate ourselves geographically a bit more in a few states, where we will soon be the majority. On the one hand, we need Blacks throughout the country to demand our rights, but on the other, a better geographical focus is the key to political power, as it is throughout the world’s democratic countries.

    IOW, we need to have our own “North American Nubia” where we have a demographic majority and political power. Some Deep South States are obvious candidates– Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana for example, all of which will soon be Black-majority within perhaps a decade. This would be a core of our nation.

    But we can have a second North American Nubia (or North American Africana, whichever name you prefer) in the Upper Midwest– Michigan is one of the Blackest states in the Union, and much of Illinois is also strongly African-American in demographics, culture and social importance.

    Some of my homies from college have even urged conversion to Islam for African-Americans. It’s not something I’ve considered myself, though I’ll acknowledge that at least for many urban African-Americans, they’ve done quite well after the conversion. Many having been in jail or kept out of jail, they become more focused and disciplined, as fathers they take care of their Black children and care better for Black women, stay away from drugs and violence and so forth. (interesting link a friend sent to me– The Nubian Manifesto )

    IMHO there are many different personal routes we can take for empowerment, but as a group, we must stay strong and focused and, again, have enough of a geographic concentration that we can gain political power. Just as we should ally with Latinos as they become the majority in their own homelands in Southwestern states and Florida, so should Blacks ally with Muslims in Michigan (who will soon be the majority in that state).

    It’s obvious from our people’s history here, that we’ll survive only by standing up for ourselves. Political and economic empowerment are the central aspects of this.

  9. I agree with your article, but I want to make one correction. Sean Bell died and the other two men involved lived.

  10. This was a non-juried trial. The defense opted for judge ruling only. As a NYer I feel pretty sure that if it had been a trial by jury they wouldn’t have been acquited on all counts.

    Two other elements are offensive.

    The language of everyone involved commenting on this acquittal sound as though it were really the people who were shot, injured and killed were the ones on trial, not the shooters.

    When the defendants came out of the chambers and made their statements to the press, only one of the three managed to apologize to those he had injured. That was Cooper, I think. I had honestly expected that the first thing they’d say would be an expression of regret for the killing and shooting of innocent people.

    If there is any benefit of the doubt to proffered here, maybe because there are many more legal challenges for them to negotiate, and expressions of regret are then expressions of guilt?

    The legal system in this nation is as broken as everything else.

    Love, C.

  11. So basically nubianus you’re advocating outnumbering and genocide against whites? As a non-Muslim American of Iranian descent I personally would not stand with you.

  12. This was a non-juried trial. The defense opted for judge ruling only. As a NYer I feel pretty sure that if it had been a trial by jury they wouldn’t have been acquited on all counts.

    Two other elements are offensive.

    The language of everyone involved commenting on this acquittal sound as though it were really the people who were shot, injured and killed were the ones on trial, not the shooters.

    They were the ones on trial.

    I think the odds would have been higher for convictions which is why the officers’ attorneys tried to move it out to some location like Albany. That failed so they went for trial by judge.

    When the defendants came out of the chambers and made their statements to the press, only one of the three managed to apologize to those he had injured. That was Cooper, I think. I had honestly expected that the first thing they’d say would be an expression of regret for the killing and shooting of innocent people.

    Cooper fired relatively fewer shots than either Isnora or Oliver. He was only charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment for a shot that I think hit the train station narrowly missing someone’s head. I think they indicted him b/c when he was asked why he was shooting and what at, he said he didn’t know at the grand jury.

    If there is any benefit of the doubt to proffered here, maybe because there are many more legal challenges for them to negotiate, and expressions of regret are then expressions of guilt?

    That’s part of it. But apologies from law enforcement officers are rare in many circumstances. I don’t think many of them feel there’s reason to do so.

    They can’t express that even if they wanted to, which they don’t. They won’t say anything that could possibly put the city that employs them at risk of civil liability and they’ve still got the feds hanging over their heads, especially Isnora and Oliver.

  13. It’s appalling looking at the judge’s comments on his decision — he basically said he didn’t believe the defense witnesses in large part because so many of them had criminal records.

    That’s just wrong.

  14. [...] issue and this issue are deeply connected. And are even more deeply connected to the national conversation about race [...]

  15. As many of you know, I am white and a male. I am of Irish descent and I grew up south of Chicago. My father was a police officer for 30 years.

    In my father’s 30 years of police work, he has encountered everything – a fellow police (who was Latin American) officer in a body bag, domestic violence and abuse in very raw form, a shot gun held to his face by someone dusted on PCP, and he came home in casts as well.

    But he would say that at no point whatsoever did he feel he was in such danger that he needed to pull out his 357 magnum and unload it into someone else. Yes, he has used his gun, but not in this fashion.

    I remember the morning of my wedding day clearly – I pulled up to the church in my rusty 1982 Honda Accord. I was the first one there. I was carrying my tux draped in plastic over my shoulder with a duffle bag in my other arm. I remember wishing that I had eaten more breakfast and that I had one more cup of coffee. I remember changing into my tux in an empty Sunday School classroom. I even remember talking about the OJ Simpson situation with members of my wedding party.

    My Lord and My God, I cannot imagine waking up to the news that my spouse-to-be was gunned down…the other parent of my child is dead.

  16. It’s appalling looking at the judge’s comments on his decision — he basically said he didn’t believe the defense witnesses in large part because so many of them had criminal records.

    It’s also one-sided. Did the judge have access to the personnel records of the officers involved in terms of any prior misconduct investigations and complaints for example? Any prior officer-involved shootings?

    No. Most likely, not admissable. And all the four officers directly involved in the Rodney King beating had disciplinary records. Two of them had served fairly lengthy suspensions for LAPD officers. And guess what? Lawrence Powell had prior disciipline for breaking a man’s bones with his baton AND had flunked a baton use test at roll call that same shift and had to receive brief remedial training. Theodore Briseno had been suspended for kicking someone, like he did King.

    Yet I doubt this information was allowed at trial.

    Though in the Sean Bell shooting, the leaders of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care got records of the shooting qualification processes for the officers and I think two of them weren’t properly qualified.

  17. I don’t want to detract from the Seal Press debate,

    About the Seal Press issue. Sean Bell was killed because the police saw him as a scary black man. They therefore shot him and his companions 50 times, including stopping to reload, endangering bystanders, and killing a completely innocent man, because they saw him and his friends not as citizens they as police were sworn to protect but dangerous monsters they had to protect themselves from. Images like those in Marcotte’s book feed the “scary black man” stereotype and make it all the easier for police to see blacks, particularly young black men, as “others”. Not that NYC police read a lot of small press feminist literature, but geez, can’t we keep this dam stereotype out of one, little, tiny corner of the world? And maybe work from there until we get it out of the literature that the cops do read (or TV they watch or whatever)?

  18. All this crap about whether the victims were drunk, whether they had criminal records, what their conduct was in other situations…is anyone else reminded of a rape trial?

  19. Dude. This is some racist shit. Those white officers got away with murder. Wait, what? The officers were black too?

  20. People should be making donations to organizations like the People’s justice Coalition which was formed right around the time when the Diallo murder happened.

    They have a long history of working directly with the families of police brutality victims.

  21. What is your point, M?

    Do you have one or are you just being an ass?

  22. Nubianus, I’m a badass, but your post is seriously scary. Power from within, bro. Staging a coup is not the way we do it.

  23. M,

    You do realize racism affects everyone, right? It can even make black people do stuff like racially profile. And it obviously can make random people on the internet say really stupid, ignorant things.

    Nubianus,

    Outbreed them? Seriously? That’s the best solution you can offer? Fuck them to death? Seriously?

    And I take exception to the Manifesto you posted. For one thing, it’s not much of a manifesto. Takes too long to get to the point. For another, it equates “Blacks” with “Niggers” without explanation — it’s not clear whether the poster thinks they’re equal, or whether s/he’s using it for dramatic irony. Surely there are better manifestos out there that you could’ve posted — maybe some of the old ones from the SNCC or Panthers, at least?

  24. [...] officers are also black: “Two men of color acquitted, one dead,” as she puts it. Dianne aptly points out that racial profiling is at the heart of this, and littlem makes some important [...]

  25. [...] April 26, 2008 “[There is] this weird, almost anxious insistence that “even if” the officers aren’t convicted, that they’ll still Suffer, Suffer Horribly via lawsuits or some other means. I actually started noticing it several weeks ago, long before the verdict, almost as an attempt to appease the anger they knew was coming.” wrote ABW. [...]

  26. Dude. This is some racist shit. Those white officers got away with murder. Wait, what? The officers were black too?

    Actually no they weren’t. They were two Black officers, two White officers and one Latino officer involved. The lieutenant was White. The ones on trial were the two Black officers and one White officer. I believe the other White officer was one who testified but wasn’t charged.

    The officer who emptied one clip and then reloaded was Michael Oliver who is White.

    And the race of the officer in a department which is still very much predominantly White and male doesn’t really make that much difference. I don’t know what the racial makeup of the NYPD is but about 80% of its officers are male.

    Racial profiling is a serious problem in the NYPD as shown by recent stop-and-frisk studies not to mention studies done on how many Black NYPD officers have been shot or shot at by White officers who didn’t know they were officers.

  27. nojojojo, I agree with part of your post. I also agree with Drew.

    Outbreeding is a stupid ignorant point to bring up. Seems to me Nubianus’ answer to discrimination is even more discrimination, just directed at other groups. Two wrongs don’t make right.

  28. This makes me sick. Love how the judge said it’s up to the people to show that police *didn’t* have a good reason for gunning down and killing an unarmed black man, not up to the police to show that they did?

    Jenn, how did the rally go?

  29. Love how the judge said it’s up to the people to show that police *didn’t* have a good reason for gunning down and killing an unarmed black man, not up to the police to show that they did

    It’s up to the prosecutor to prove they violated the law, including how it applies to police officers. But they weren’t really aggressive trial attorneys. They never are in cases like this.

  30. This morning when I opened the Internet, I was confronted with a mother’s grief over the murder of her son by police and the system’s refusal to render justice. Then, I went into my mothers room, and saw the same thing . . .

    The tears of Valarie Bell, mother of Sean Bell, now mingle with the tears of Martha LeVert, mother of Sean LeVert, and of my mom, Hattie Neal, mother of Larry Neal, forming a dark river of bitter tears that flow through America for lost sons.

    At least Mrs. Bell’s pain and indignation at the injustice are shared by people of all races throughout the world who care about human rights and equal protection issues. Not so for my own 85-year-old mother. Our story of death and denial of justice are shut out of the media and very carefully covered up — that is how blatently inhumane and indefensible what happened to Larry Neal was.

    Mine is the only American family in the 21st Century to have a member secretly arrested by police and returned to his family a corpse with no excuse, apology, explanation, arrest records, inquest, and denied any investigation. Please read about it at our website: http://wrongfuldeathoflarryneal.com.

    If you really care about such injustices, here’s something you can do about such injustice without even leaving your chair. Even Michael Vick’s pit bulls’ abuse and deaths were thoroughly investigated and people were held accountable, yet my brother’s death and the subsequent cover-up is kept out of the media, because secretly jailing a handicapped black man and deliberately keeping him away from his heart drugs is indefensible. Racist solution: Don’t let anybody know about it. Please sign our petition for an investigation regarding my brother’s secret incarceration and euthanasia.

    Petition to the United States Justice Dept. for Investigation – Dog Justice Demanded

    http://www.petitiononline.com/Neal/petition.html

    172 Bullets, yet not guilty. My God! And just as was the case with Sean Bell, some of the miscreants in my brother’s wrongful death and the subsequent cover-up were also black. Now isn’t that a shame?

    Mary Neal
    website: http://wrongfuldeathoflarryneal.com
    Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill
    P.O. Box 7222
    Atlanta, GA 30357

  31. [...] Officers in Sean Bell shooting acquitted by nojojo at The Angry Black Woman [...]

  32. In response to Nubianus:

    Thanks

  33. None of you, or us, really believed these cops were going to be found guilty
    of anything, did you / we? The trial was a set-up from the start. Tomorrow-
    we’ll chant “No justice.. No Peace” and that will be it! Sure, our feet will hurt a tad bit from the marching and maybe the throat will be sore too, but that’s how far we’ll take it. We won’t do anything else. This City I love so much will kill you in a heartbeat and nothing ever happens, no one is held to account, especially not the police. The public chanting dies down, the cops go
    about their lives, see them smirking walking into court? Boy, they LOOKED
    worried. Nothing will ever change this City, unless the people really rise up.
    The days of King and X are long gone, the blood of innocent, unarmed black men
    mean not a damn thing in OUR city, where is the justice for Amadou Diallo?
    Patrick Dorismond? Timothy Stansbury Jr.? and Sean Bell? By spring of 2010 the
    cops will murder again, like clockwork – you can count on it. What will we
    do….No Justice No……… In the movie “Untouchables” the question is asked, “What are you prepared to do?”… No Justice….

    You can get killed just for living in… your American skin!

  34. Eight NYPD officers including the three who were tried in the shooting have been charged administratively. They include also the supervisng lieutenant, two other officers who shot but weren’t charged and two crime scene unit employees who compromised the crime scene.

    Eight officers charged administratively

  35. Atlanta police officer Arthur Testler was acquitted of violation of an oath and false imprisonment charges and convicted of lying to investigators in his trial stemming from the 2006 fatal shooting of Kathryn Johnson, 92.

    More info on Johnston’s killing here and verdict, here.

  36. As horrible as the Sean Bell killing was, and as sad as I am for his wife and girls, his parents, for everyone who loved this young man…there is a much bigger problem going on in the black community, and it seems that Rev. Sharpton and Charles Barron are not addressing this problem…the rampant black on black crime that has turned segments of the black community into a war zone.

    Why isn’t Reverend Sharpton organizing marches and protests against the drug dealers, thugs and gangbangers who are making certain black communities a living hell? Just recently, a 41 year old corrections officer was shot in the head in Flatbush, Brooklyn…by all accounts, he was a wonderful man, everyone loved him, he was a good father to his son and daughter, and he adored his mother. A punk ass walked up to him and tried to take the motorbike he was fixing, and shot him in the head. We’ve had an epidemic of black on black shootings in Philadelphia, Detroit is out of control with this shit…and now it seems our girls are becoming victims of this violence…a 15 year old honors student in Queens was shot in the head, in front of her friends…one said she’d have nightmares for the rest of her life because she watched her friend get her head blown off. In Florida, a black woman and her son were viciously assaulted by 10 thugs (black) and after raping the woman, beating and cutting mother and son, they forced the mother and son to perform sex acts on each other…one of the four apprehended admitted that they were going to set them on fire, but couldn’t find a lighter or matches…

    Everytime a white person or a police officer does something to us, we holler and march and protest (and rightfully so), yet we remain silent on the issue of black on black crime…some of us shake or heads, or “tsk tsk” at a particular incident, but we go right back to acting as if nothing happened.

    There should be as many black and brown people (personally I don’t think white people or other people care) marching and protesting and blocking traffic over the us slaughtering each other, as there were protesting over Sean Bell.

    If a cop shot my son, Rev Al would be at my side in a minute.

    If a blood or crip shot my son, he’d be nowhere to be found.

    In any case, I’m raising my son to understand that the police are no better or different the bloods or crips…regardless of what color the policeman.

  37. Rhonda,

    First and foremost, the issue of black on black crime is not relevant to the issues of police abuse of power and racial profiling. We could all be beating each other down in the streets, and that still wouldn’t mean it’s OK for the cops — who are ostensibly public servants, here to protect and serve all of us — to roundly decide that black people should be searched, shot, raped, pulled over, tortured, or otherwise abused because we’re black.

    Now, I’ll grant you — black-on-black violence is a problem. Violence period is a problem in poor communities, regardless of race, because when you put a bunch of people who are underprivileged and struggling to survive in one place, they’re going to fight with each other. Yay for capitalism. But it’s not the particular problem we’re talking about in this thread, so for you to bring it up here smacks of the “but why aren’t we talking about what’s wrong with black people?” protests that I hear so often from whites when we start talking about white privilege and racism. The problems of black people by black people are a subject of concern, yes. But there are ten thousand forums in the world for discussions of What’s Wrong With Black People. That’s not what we’re talking about here and now.

    Also,

    Everytime a white person or a police officer does something to us, we holler and march and protest (and rightfully so), yet we remain silent on the issue of black on black crime…some of us shake or heads, or “tsk tsk” at a particular incident, but we go right back to acting as if nothing happened.

    Back in the Nineties, I participated in the Million Man March, which (among other things) was an effort to strike back against the crime — black-on-black and otherwise — that’s devastating our community. What was that, chopped liver? And since moving to New York I’ve seen several protests against in-community violence — but those don’t get on the news, and they don’t make the papers. They don’t usually attract Al Sharpton, either — but IMO no one actually in the black community thinks of him as our leader, so I don’t particularly expect to see him anywhere if there aren’t cameras there first.

    Anyway — my point is, don’t assume there’s no anger about black-on-black violence within our community, particularly if you’re drawing that conclusion from the mainstream media.

  38. Anyway — my point is, don’t assume there’s no anger about black-on-black violence within our community, particularly if you’re drawing that conclusion from the mainstream media.

    In my area, there’s a lot of organizations like Mothers against Gang Violence, Stop the Violence, and others addressing violence within communities. Not to mention networks of religious leaders to walk the communities when there’s gang shootings. No one waits for Al Sharpton, or any national leaders to make an appearance when they march. I think it’s mostly at the grass-roots level and the media isn’t going to report anything that’s activism against violence in community because it’s too busy trying to label these communities as “bad” and their residents under a vast assortment of stereotypes.

    But the police often don’t come out when called, people are scared to call them, people are scared to come forward with information on crimes (though they might anonymously call 9-11), the same resources given to White homicide victims often are not afforded to Black and Latino homicide victims. The police don’t care b/c they figure if the two or more fighting factions kill themselves off, then that takes care of the problem. Police making derogatory comments to individuals who do seek their help, like people like you are the problem, don’t belong (in their own neighborhood) and needing to get rid of drug-users like “you” who don’t work (this was to a Black female bank teller just last weekend) and so forth. And when police meet with community members on violence in the neighborhoods, they just tell them what they are planning to do (which is usually suppression-based) and don’t work with them or even really listen to them.

    It’s interesting that you mention Philadelphia, Detroit and others have added Chicago for example to the mix. All cities with major police issues ranging from corruption to racism and misogyny to excessive force and back again and in all agencies this goes back decades. Ironically in Philadelphia’s case, the reasons that police officers gave for brutality including beating men of color and harassing women of color in the interrogation rooms was because they were pressured by their management and city officials to close out homicide cases with confessions whether it was the right person or not and to do whatever to get them. But how does that combat violent crime? Does it remove from it or does it instead make it worse?

    I believe that there’s an intersection between community violence and police misconduct and that often it’s hard to separate the two even though some who work on the issues separately try hard to do so and maybe that works better in some places than others. But what I’m finding more and more is that you have to take a look at both particularly where they intersect. Police reform activists have to look at other policing issues such as complaints that there’s not enough police, they are not dispatched fast enough to stop a crime like a rape in progress and that often the attitudes of police are that no crime happened (as is often in the case of women of color who try to report rapes).

    Many communities even those that don’t trust police are in a double bind because in many cases, it’s not that they don’t want police, they want to play a major role in police involvement in their communities and not just be occupied.

    Violence prevention activists looking at issues within their communities involving police misconduct and profiling that foster distrust and the lack of willingness among community members to call the police. Working for accountability mechanisms which protect residents who don’t get assistance or even get abused as in one case I know involving two men who called 9-11 because there were burgulars in their house and then police came over and tried to profile them as robbers, handcuffing them and trying to take their photos before they were released without charges.

    I think the Kathryn Johnston case is one where that’s so apparent. She’s an elderly Black women in a high-crime area and her family is scared for her safety from the crime so they give her a gun to protect herself but we all know that giving a Black woman a gun for self-protection isn’t seen the same way it would be if she were White. But who killed her? Who broke into her house? Who tried to frame her as a criminal to fit a profile? The only thing that exposed this whole corrupt scheme was her age. If she’d been younger, it wouldn’t have gotten a second glance.

  39. nojojojo, the issue of black on black crime is, IMO, relevant to the issue of police brutality and abuse of power, because the results of both are the same…dead black and brown people and grieving black and brown parents, siblings and children. What is the difference if a police officer shoots my son, or if a crip or blood shoots my son? My son is still dead. I would be just as out of my mind with grief and anger over a cop killing him as I would some punk ass gang member killing him.

    In some of these communities people will be witness to a crime and won’t say shit, because of the infamous “no snitch” policy in the community…because they fear retaliation from the dealers and bangers. How are the police supposed find the criminal when people won’t talk?

    I just find it interesting that when whites or cops hurt or kill us, our outrage knows no bounds, but when black people kill each other, people are silent…there has been talk of passing a terrorist law against gang members and leaders for a few years now, but black people were hollering about how it wasn’t fair…meanwhile gangmembers literally hold black communities across the country hostage with their violence and intimidating manner…they are terrorists.

    Who will march, protest, be outraged for all the innocent brothas and sistas who have been, and who will continue to be, killed by black and brown people? My son is nearly 15, a good boy, never been in trouble, goes to school everyday…I’m sure some will march for him should a cops bullet take his life, but who’ll march for him should a bullet from thug/gangbanger/drug dealer take his life?

    Based on what I see and know, not many…

    My deepest condolences to Sean Bell and his family…the cops should have been charged with, at the very least, wreckless endangerment.

    But let’s be real, if Sean Bell had been shot by a street thug, we wouldn’t be having any conversation about it. Just like no on is talking about that poor brotha out in Flatbush who was killed by a black thug.

  40. Rhonda,

    As both Radfem and I have pointed out to you, people *are* protesting and talking about black on black violence. And there’s a ton of work being done to reduce gang violence — good grief, do you remember the 80s? I do — there were times when I was afraid to walk down the street in my father’s Brooklyn neighborhood while wearing a solid color. Pick the wrong color and end up dead — me, a teenaged black girl who’s about as geeky and non-thuggy as they come. But it happened a lot back then. Things have improved so much since then, as a direct result of outreach work by churches, nonprofit orgs, and former gang members themselves. Does none of this mean anything to you?

    Also,
    nojojojo, the issue of black on black crime is, IMO, relevant to the issue of police brutality and abuse of power, because the results of both are the same…dead black and brown people and grieving black and brown parents, siblings and children.

    So are the results of medical experiments by white corporations and doctors on black and brown people; so are the results of over-recruiting (and under-opportunity) in black and brown communities by the military; so are the results of differential sentencing standards for crimes perceived as “predominantly minority” (like crack use) versus those done mostly by whites (like cocaine); and so on, and so on. This is racism. All of it is interconnected and all of it has the same effect, whether we’ve internalized it and are inflicting it on ourselves, or whether white people are doing it to us. That’s how racism works.

    But we can’t talk about all of it, all the time. In this thread, at this time, we’re talking about racial profiling by the police. There have been and will be threads talking about gang violence and other black-on-black evil on ABW in the future. For now, we’re talking about police evil.

  41. Here, more work on addressing tensions within racial groups living in the same neighborhood too by community groups, because unlike many other places, the gang violence is becoming more and more interracial between African-American gangs like the Crips (and to a much lesser extent, the Bloods) and Latino gangs and the violence spills over onto other community residents because in this type of violence, it”s not only gang members who are targeted but it’s done by race. There’s also organizations of members to work with schools and to escort students off campus especially right now.

    But I think a lot of these issues are coming out of changes in the sentencing and incarceration laws of the past 10 or so years which has strengthened the influence of prison gangs on what goes on outside and how prisons don’t prepare inmates for life out of prison except to be more hardened. In order to be protected on the inside, they have to be gang members on the outside.

    The “terrorism law” by law enforcement is to try to get gang enforcement tied into Homeland Security where most of the federal police funding is now focused upon and away from community oriented intervention and prevention program involvement (with most grants allocating about 25% of the monies which are usually in the form of matching funds for prevention/intervention programs). But suppression policing including racial profiling hasn’t done anything to alleviate gang violence in the last 20 or so years and beyond very short-term, has had the opposite effect for many reasons. Oh, they’ll say at a meeting, on the way over, we pulled over a car and there were guns in it but they don’t say they pulled over another five or so where there weren’t.

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