News, commentary and analysis by leaders of the Communist Party USA in New York State. We discuss State politics and issues in New York City, covering developments in labor, civil rights education, housing and more.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sean Bell Judge Issues License to Kill

This morning judge Arthur J. Cooperman issued not guilty verdicts in the Sean Bell shooting case on all counts for all officers. This is a huge travesty of justice and amounts to giving police everywhere a license to kill.

The judge's ruling emphasized that the police defendants are innocent until proven guilty, but ignored the fact that the police treated Sean Bell and his friends as guilty from the very start and went on to execute him and severely injure the others.

Justice Cooperman goes on to say that the people didn't make their case. While it is clear the Queens District Attorney made many errors in prosecuting the case (the first and foremost was allowing the case to be tried only by a judge instead of by a jury), the main argument the judge makes is that the witnesses were not up to par.

In essence, he claims that inaccuracies and contradictions in witness testimony was the basis for the acquittal. Furthermore the judge questioned the quality of the witnesses, pointing out prior criminal convictions and "demeanor on the witness stand," perhaps code for "Black". He points out that thee defense case had inaccuracies as well, but believes they carry less importance.

Most shocking perhaps is the acquittal on charges of reckless endangerment. While assault charges required proof of intent, reckless endangerment is a matter of fact. Police bullets sprayed the car more than 40 times and pierced a wall in a nearby apartment and even landed on the AirTrain platform a football field away. If this isn't reckless endangerment, we don't know what is. What if another innocent bystander had been hit with a bullet or died? Would this have been reckless enough for the judge?

The judge wrote, "Questions of carelessness and incompetence must be left to other forums." But the extreme carelessness towards use of deadly force is in fact, criminal.

The ruling sends a clear message whether or not the police follow procedures, or have been drinking, endanger the public at large, or fire on a unarmed person, the police are justified in using deadly force if they "feel" that they are under threat.

Some commentators have stated that the police have a lower standard of proof when it comes to self-defense. But the police standards must be much higher than the average person exactly because they have access to deadly force. Police officers are in a potentially dangerous job and are supposed to be trained and prepared to deal with potential hazards. But it is the general public safety and not their own which they are pledged to protect.

Racist police violence plagues New York City and has for years. The sad fact is that Sean Bell’s killing is far from unique: Amadou Diallo’s murder, the torture of Abner Louima, the rooftop shooting of Timothy Stansbury, the list goes on and on. The police have made New York City a dangerous place to be African American or Latino.

Some say the Bell case cannot be one of racism because of the race of the police involved. But it is the recurring pattern of policing and police violence, which shows the targeting of low-income communities of color. Racism is not isolated to bigotry by individuals. It includes systematic policies that result in disparate outcomes whatever the intention. In fact, New York City Police Department routinely treats black lives as dispensable regardless who is wearing the uniform.

The police that night never tried to intervene in the altercation that occurred outside the club. They never tried to deescalate the situation that they themselves testified as potentially dangerous. Their plan was never to prevent a crime from happening that night, but to assume that one would. Sean Bell was just another criminal in their minds.

Once again we, along with the entire community, mourn the loss of Sean Bell's life and the devastation to his family and young bride-to-be. We also fear for the safety of Black and Latino residents of the city in a climate created by this ruling. Without a major change in police policies and practices and without establishing serious consequences for killing young people of color in the city, police killing will definitely continue, despite Mayor Bloomberg's promise of "never again".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is the history of the NYPD to be racist.

The South Carolina slave patrol, arguably the first modern police force in North America, was established in 1704 to find and capture fugitive slaves. There is abundant evidence to suggest that pro-slavery governments sometimes arrested free African Americans as "fugitive slaves," transferring them to slave traders for later sale.

The history of the NYPD is no different. They were created to destroy black people and they are still doing it. Black people need to get wise and unite... read... learn... elevate yourselves

Sean Bell was a decent citizen. It could have been you or me. Educate yourself because the justice system is not designed to help black people.

According to the Case of Dred Scott vs. Sanford (look it up) the Supreme Court ruled that Scott could not sue because a black man has no legal standing in a court of law because black people have no rights that a white man is bound to respect. We will not survive if we do not educade ourselves and love ourselves and each other