Friday, April 25, 2008


So I wake up in anticipation to the Sean Ball case. I pretty much stayed quiet on my opinion and public statements because many of the Community Groups decided to pull back and allow the justice system to work it's magic. In the past, the New York Justice System always used and accused community groups, especially Black and Latino Activist Groups for inciting Racism, manipulating the and or interfering with the structure of the courts, misleading evidence and pressuring litigators for political reasons by threatening the potential for Riots in decisions involving Police brutality and obsessive force. So this now was a test. A test to see that if a community were to NOT be involved, would the system own up to its word of carrying out JUSTICE without excuses and blame. So much was the non-involvement that the local media was asking, “Where is Al Sharpton?” as well as other locally known activist such as Councilman Charles Barron. The Black Church made mention of the events and the activities leading up to the decision. There was a conscious practice of non-involvement until the final days.

The media played the day-to-day strategies of the court, its inconsistencies, the play on words, legal analysts read their tea leaves trying to predict what was going to happen but BLACK folk knew what the endgame was going to be, and YET they still Hoped that the Legal System would do the right thing. Black folk knew what the final decision was going to end up being the moment the courts ruled to forgo a jury and have a SINGLE JUDGE make the decision. Common Sense would say that anyone, unarmed and in a closed environment (a car) being shot with 50 bullets, some of which fired haphazardly at innocent bystanders, and others still having bullets lodged in their bodies of the defendants, it would stand to reason that someone would be found guilty of at least the minimum charges. So as a statement of calm, we all sat, and waited and PLANNED until the final conclusion was made.

The Sean Bell case is a clear example of Police Brutality 101 by the NYPD. You could not write a better “script” than this. Without building a coalition, the story itself took on a life and lived in the hearts and minds of all New Yorkers because no one in their right mind could comprehend how 50 bullets were needed to stop three men in a car when all three were innocent. In events past when there were questions about OVER POLICING by the NYPD, sides were drawn, but in the Sean Bell case, people know what sided to be on and the NYPD had very little support. There was no need for massive protests in the streets because the American justice system would rule correctly on this one. The possible reason for lack of overt activism in the beginning may have been the lack of media enticement or lack thereof without Black Community Leaders as a catalyst for fanning the flames and decent as material to work with. Then again, it could have been due to the event’s simplicity. This was an Open and Shit Case. It took very little to keep the importance of Sean Bell’s life out of the media everyday. Sean Bell was what you would call a "Clean Cut Kid" with no record, no violent background, no drug usage, well educated, and a hard working family man. Even with the conscious strategy of having Black Lawyers representing the police officers and their use of the term, "GOOD BLACKS vs. BAD BLACKS" used against Sean Bell and his associates throughout the case, there was a public acknowledgement that the courts were really stretching to find something to justify his murder. Here you had an American, attending a Bachelor Party the day before he was to get married to his wife and begin his family with a child, not having a criminal background and you end up being shot by several police officers because they “thought” they heard he was going to "get a gun". As the lawyers continued to dig deep into the officer’s story, the initial causes for shooting went from "fear of being shot" to "fear of being run over with a car" to the people who were all shot had "criminal affiliations" (Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman) to their stories changed and consistent because they wanted to sue the Police Department and make money from Civil Case. Open and shut case right? Wrong. Somewhere along the line, Sean Bell's Human and and Civil Rights were left at the door and walked over.

The officers; Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper were all the central players in this Legal Drama. Marc Cooper, 40, was noted for firing so wildly, that his bullets sprayed into a near by train station, almost hitting an idle standing bystander. Cooper faced charges of reckless endangerment. Officers Michael Oliver, 36, and Isnora, 29, faced Manslaughter charges and Assault and Reckless Endangerment with their uncontrolled weapons. In the end, it was Justice Arthur Cooperman delivered the verdict, Not Guilty.

When those Words were uttered, the Bell family broke down but they remained strong. Deep down, behind the Hope, they KNEW. They knew that the Police would not get what normal people who murder indiscriminately would get. As things would go, the Bell family would have HOPED to get an apology from the System for their loss and as of the decision, had not. As Black folk, the understanding of bias, double standards, two legal systems, police brutality, over sentencing, under reporting, over policing, militia style policing, creating name and affiliation data bases and profiling is power for the course when living in Inner City New York so HOPE is the ideal word for what Black folk prophetical live by. When Community Leaders put out the message to stand down and allow the System to function without intervention, the tensions had never subsided. Knowing that “if” and “whenTHAT decision is made, that ENERGY will be directed not into Destruction BUT into a wave that will flow ALL OVER THE CITY.

"This verdict is one round down, but the fight is far from over. What we saw in court today was not a miscarriage of justice. Justice didn't miscarry. This was an abortion of justice." -- Rev. Al Sharpton

I sat in the audience, as did the community when Sharpton explained that when a Woman miscarries, medically this means that the body was unable to handle the life that is was given. It means that due to no fault of the Woman or accident, life CANNOT be carried and it fails. When a life is “aborted”, it is a conscious decision, a planned killing, and a methodical step-by-step murder of life. In the case of Sean Bell, from the shooting to the systematic structure of the court to bring about a decision of Not Guilty, their was a premeditated plan for an ABORTION of justice and it should be seen, understood and explained as such.

"Obviously, there are some people who are disappointed with the verdict. ... We don't anticipate violence, but we are prepared for any contingency." Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

The lack of “expected” criminal and destructive actions has stunned the NYPD and its Legal Community. There were no riots, no fighting in the street, no rocks thrown, cars being turned over, gun shoots in the distance or threats and cursing after the decision. Black folk gathered their anger and their fears tied together by their HOPE and made way to their Churches, Community Groups, Local Organizations, Homes and Schools and coming out with all the RESERVED ENERGY needed to CLEAN HOUSE. This was easy to do because prior to the decision, Black folk in New York prepared and had a "CONTINGENCY" as well. In the past 10 years in New York when citizens thought that the worst the NYPD can do is murder Amadou Diallo, it had gone complacent and bored and decided that 21 shots needed to grow to 36 to 41 to 50 shots. Now New Yorkers know that 50 shots will grow to 60 and into 70 and ultimately into an arsenal of body holes and it needs to stop. But how will Black folk do that? They aren’t telling nor advertising their strategy this time. This lack of knowledge has begun to increase the NYPD and New York City “fear”. This much they all know, Uptown WILL be coming Downtown.

Walking the streets of Harlem and I saw no Beat Walkers. All of the Officers are in Patrol Cars. Driving. Searching. Wondering if and when the time will come and the "explosion" begins. With the weather getting warmer, the children on their Spring Break, what now? No longer comfortable to walk the streets, the command offices now feel that Black folk will became dangerous, uncontrollable and detrimental to their livelihood. Not true, Black folk have decided to change the script.

"Today we're grateful that this court ruled on the evidence presented in this case. But with this case, there's no winners, there's no losers. We still have a death that occurred. We still have police officers that have to live with the fact that there was a death involved in their case. ... It's a tragedy for all police officers who have to live with the difficult job we do but nevertheless we're grateful for this outcome." --Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick J. Lynch.

The comments of Patrick J. Lynch read from the typical and old NYPD script. Translation: “Yeah people got shot, and some N____ got shot too but Shyt happens. You’ll get some money from this but HEY, as Police, we are under a lot of pressure so get off our backs aiight.”

"There are no winners in a trial like this. An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father, and a mother and a father lost their son. No verdict could ever end the grief that those who knew and loved Sean Bell suffer. Judge Cooperman's responsibility, however, was to decide the case based on the evidence presented in the courtroom. America is a nation of laws, and though not everyone will agree with the verdicts and opinions issued by the courts, we accept their authority. Today's decision is no different. There will be opportunities for peaceful dissent and potentially for further legal recourse -- those are the rights we enjoy in a democratic nation. We don't expect violence or law-breaking, nor is there any place for it. We have come too far as society -- and as a City -- to be dragged back to those days. -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Politically and Publicly speaking, the Mayor of New York cannot tarnish the NYPD and yet when this whole incident occurred he did say that the shooting was, “obsessive”. Not the NYPD and it is because of this attitude towards Black life, the people are DONE, no more passes.

"We ask people to be calm as they protest, if that's what they choose to do. ... On the same token, though, we ask police to be calm as people protest. ... We have not heard what these men did that caused police to act as though they were America's most wanted, yet still we hear a verdict of not guilty. We will go to the next level, whatever that might be, to seek justice." -- Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica, Queens, branch of the NAACP.

The role of Youth is heavily highlighted in the movement. The numbers on the streets swelled to a major capacity. This is good for several reasons. Through the marches, the interviews and rallies, the main theme spoken was, "This could be you. This could be Me. This could be your child? Sean Bill is me." for what is it worth, the Mothers and Fathers that broke down in tears and stood tall and shouted know that this is a TRUTH that cannot be ignored. When asked, during Al Sharpton's National Radio Show, how do you think the current political figures running for president should react? It was noted that it was not anyone's place to predict but Black folk will put Hillary Clinton and Governor David Peterson on NOTICE and an active commitment to making this RIGHT will be DEMANDED.

Later, as the groups retired to meet the next day, some of the protesters heard Barak Obama's reaction to the decision, the skepticism and wariness rose to the top with some when Obama said:

After watching Obama's comment, many of the people who left the rally gave pause to the response. After a few minute of dialogue one man's thoughts were this:

"It's in moments like this is why I feel Obama will fall short of addressing Black issues. Sure he may be able to fix the economy, bring back the troops, possibly bring about a solid foundation for jobs in America but for the individual Black person, what do he bring to the table in situations like this besides Hope. I don't want any more Hope, I want justice."

I would have to agree. The response was a bit disconnected, generic and dismissive to the Pain and Hurt that Black and Brown people feel and have felt for years in relation to Police brutality by the NYPD. Like the "bitter" comment that offended the people of Centeral Pennsylvania and Small Town America, the Obama Multiculturalist Philosophy of "let's come together" aren't the words for calm that Black folk want to hear just about now. I mean, how do you tell a HURT PEOPLE to accept a people that greets them with open arms; flowers in one hand and guns and bullets in another?


Shazza said...

Wow America has a very long way to come... reminds me of something i read reccently... i am reading Martin Meredith's 'The State of Africa'...though written in a wester voice...a bit biased if u asked me...

Anyway, on the 6th of March 1957, when Ghana was offered it's independence from Britain, one of the delegates who attented this was Richard Nixon, then the US vice-president... apparently during an official cerremony where he was surrounded by a crown of Ghanaians, he slapped one man on the shoulder and aked him how it felt to be free, and the man responded by saying 'I wouldn't know sir, I'm from Alabama'...that made me laugh...but is is sad, that, not much has chenged since then

jjbrock said...

Poet great article what can we do more importantly what can Obama say and do right now? We are all shock at the out come of this trial.

One Man’s Opinion said...

Shazza, you are such a passionate man, when it comes to the written word. That is one of the reasons I went to vote for your blog in the BlackWeb Awards (I still have not figured it out). I have read both of your impassioned posts on the topic of the NYPD as it relates to the Sean Bell case, as well as your comments on my site. To be honest, I don’t know what to tell you. As a black man, who is a cop, I love my job and respect it. And, like it shames me when black people make choices that bring dishonor to my race; so does the same hold true when somewhere in the world there is a blatant case of police brutality.
I am not a stupid man, sir, and nor do I think you to believe me to be. Police brutality and corruption exist, because police are human. People hate when I say that, but they are. And just like there is corruption and crimes and just about every job in the world, from cashiers to zookeepers, we want the people who protect us to be without sin. Sadly that is not going to happen. As they say, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And police have power, whether we like it or not. However, they are trained not to misuse that power.
I as a black man I grow up with this dislike and distrust of the police. I use to sing out the words, “fuck the Police” when that song came out. When I heard about things that happened where police had to use what I deemed unnecessary force, normally on a black man, I too was enraged and thought how there was not justice, there was just us.
As I grew older, I can name at least three incidents where I was stopped by the police, while on foot, because of the very fact that I was black. Never in a car though. Every time I was stopped in a car, I knew why I was being stopped, although there was one time, in a particular neighborhood, where I thought it was iffy at best.
The times I was stopped on foot, I was angered and let the officers no it, because I refused to be disrespected due to the color of my skin and the nappiness of my hair. I like to think I wore both with pride (once I became a police, I can understand better, in one of those cases, why the police stopped me. The other two were still unjustified).
The first time I attempted to join the police department here, I was a mere 21 years of age and I went through the application process and took the test and shit, but there was this one sergeant…this one white sergeant that I did not like the manner in which he spoke to me. So, I completed the process, for that day, but I went home mad and decided that maybe I didn’t have the mind set to be a police officer just yet. I was still too angry; too immature. It was funny though. I was a young black man, from the hood, without a record, who had never done drugs and had a somewhat descent head on his shoulders. They called me for about two weeks attempting to get me to come back and complete the process so they could get me into the department (even then we were in need of more qualified police). I was like, fuck them. I’m not going to work for anyone who feels like they can talk to me any kind of way and I have to just grin and bear it.
Seven years later, as I’d matured and had more jobs, but the need to serve my fellow man was still strong in me and I was drawn back to the police department. I hired on and went through the academy, where we learned all penal code, polices, use of force, search and seizure, how to shoot, not only our guns, but shotguns, and the manner of which to carry both so as not to accidently cause injury to people or damage to property.
What we also learned, that I was not expecting, was how to understand different cultures and life styles. For a full week, eight hours a day we had members from the black communities, Asian communities, Hispanic communities, gay and lesbian communities, Native American communities, hell, every community you could think of, except the white communities come in and teach us how to approach them and how the police was viewed in their eyes. It was interesting at best and sad at least. Sad, because, I thought you can’t get someone who has never had any dealing with these cultures to understand them in a block of class room time, but I gave credit to our department for putting forth the effort.
Here in Dallas, we have put video cameras in all of our squad cars. We have body mics that our officers are required to wear, because the citizens lie (I personally have been accused of everything, from police brutality to stealing money and planting drugs) and so do police officers. When officers are faced with situation that have the potential of going bad they are required, although not all do, key up those body mics so everything can be recorded. We do this so that we can make it easier to tell who is lying and who is not. Before we got our cameras and body mics, I had been lied on so much, that I had invested in my own little digital recorder.
Anyway, I said all of that to say this. I could never work in a job that I did not respect and that I did not think held honor. Flawed as the Dallas Police department maybe, I get to work with a body of men and women who carry theirselves with pride and honor and stand by each other til the end. The detectives of IAD here investigate things to the very end. Hunting down every witness they can get. God bless their soles, we think that they investigate incidents with the idea that police are guilty until proven innocent. And now that I have become a Sergeant I understand why. Police do some dumb ass shit. They are like over grown kids with guns. But still, most of those dumb things are done to determent of themselves not our citizens.
I sad all that to say this, the police are trying and trying hard to fight corrupting and the misuse of power in the departments. It is an ongoing fight, because police are people; people who come on with their own belief systems and biases and sadly, you can’t tell when that a person has hatred for another when they put on a uniform. You don’t know if this person is going to be the person that is going to be guilty of pulling over Hispanics and jacking them for their money, or this person is going to get off on going into predominately black neighborhoods and jacking up black folks. You just can’t tell. That is why we have an Internal Affairs Department. It falls on the citizens to hold their men and women in blue to a higher standard and call them on their bullshit by calling the stations and IAD to complain when they have been treated unjust. And it is up to us, as police to try to weed out that bad element so we can gain back the respect of the people that we have sworn a oath to protect and serve. And I meant that shit from the bottom of my heart!
Thanks for listening, and sorry I left such a long ass comment. I love you, my brother.

Shazza Nakim said...

You know I have LOVE for you and ALL PEOPLE (living Right). What I express is WHAT IS RIGHT.

I like to look at it like this, Police Keep Society's Order and Society's Responsibility Is To Keep Police In Order. It is a balance.

I agree, Power can currupt, which is why there is a community review. Speaking for here, in New York, the Community's Review is ignored and dismissed and as a result Black and Brown people are being murdered. My passion is to stop that because it can be anyone, or ME. Its just that the anyone often look like ME and that has to be address, loudly and aggressively.

In your situation, you just might be the one or the many that are the GOOD OFFICERS but the way the oganzization is STRUCTURED you Can't or Won't address those Issues for change and there for are guilty by association. Just like you can't tell who is Guilty and who is Innocent when on the BEAT, when a mother is shot in her back and no one from the "FORCE" won't step up to do the right thing, YOU TOO are guilty by association.

We are actually more friends than enemies but it only takes ONE misplaced or misfired bomb to start a WAR.

One Man’s Opinion said...

Well, I can't speak for the NYPD or any other officer, Shazza, but I will speak for myself. I make every effort, on my part to effect change. As a sergeant, I am out there. I don't allow my troops to talk to people just any kind of way, nor do I allow people to just talk to my troops any kind of way.
Here in Dallas Texas, we are trying our damnest to get rid of the bad seeds, because they make us all look bad. We too also have a citizens review board. But we also have a citizens' academy so the citizens can be educated in what an officer can and can not do. What is excessive force to you maybe justified force in the training of the officer. What may be yelling to you, may be loud verbal commands to an officer, because we want you as a bystander to hear that we told them to stop resisting, put down the gun, whatever.
Have you ever done a ride alone with a cop, Shazza? If not, would you, for me? Come to Texas and I'll put you in the car with me. it won't be the same a New York, I am sure, but you'll get the picture.

Shazza Nakim said...

Actually I have done a Ride Alone One Man, which if you recall a while back, I expressed that it isn't that I don't like the Police, I reject the system that allows and protects as well as condone BAD OFFICERS. I have family, friends and students that are Officers. I have seen them in action and I do applaud them in action (especially when they come in contact with people who act like a damn fool). I have family that are Lawyers -- one rose to be a Federal District Attorney that represented and charged Bad Cops. So when I champion people against those Officers that cross the line it isn't just because I am an Angry Black man with too much energy and no focus to vent, the FOCUS is real and direct.

In this case, the Officers were in the wrong, there was hearsay, alcohol and violations of Rights from beginning to end with the bias judge's decision.

People think that every Police shooting in New York, People of color react and attack. Not true, Only the ones that are Blatant Violations of Civil Rights do we ACT-UP. The Sean Bell Case is one of MANY MANY MANY that happens because of the casual management of the NYPD -- since the Mayor Gulliani Administration where he allow a roll back of responsibility to communities.