Although the New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo was finally fired last year, he was never arrested or indicted for Eric Garner’s death. In the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, all four police officers were fired within 48 hours and indicted for second degree murder. Six years ago, in an eight minute …
Tag: Eric Garner
Jun 07 2020
Jan 25 2015
Finally saw the movie Selma last week, right after the MLK Day march. Found it to be an exhilarating fictionalized rendition of one of the more important moments in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It is, above all else, a reminder that this struggle is primarily of, by and for black folks. And yet, most of the press, even prior to the movie opening, was about how it was historically inaccurate and, more importantly to these critics, misrepresented and denigrated (I chose my words carefully here) the role of Lyndon Baines Johnson who was president at the time of the struggle.
In Politico’s “What Selma Gets Wrong,” (12/22/14), LBJ Presidential Library director Mark Updegrove charged that the fictional film’s depiction of the epic voting-rights battle in the Alabama town portrayed the relationship between [Martin Luther] King and President Lyndon Baines Johnson as “contentious.” This served, Updegrove scolded, to “bastardize one of the most hallowed chapters in the civil rights movement by suggesting that the president himself stood in the way of progress.” Johnson adviser Joseph Califano struck next in the Washington Post (12/26/14)suggesting that in fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea.” Califano asks of the filmmakers: Did “they” [quotes are mine] feel no obligation to check the facts? You even had Post columnist Richard Cohen (1/5/15) lamenting that Selma is a lie that tarnishes Johnson’s legacy to exalt King’s.
Without getting too much into the details of the controversy and who gets to determine “facts”, the accusation here is that the black female director Ava Devernay (and by implication the black community)was willing to distort the history of the white role in the civil rights movement to promote black biases of black importance in the struggle. In other words, the black community doesn’t care about accuracy, about truth and “justice,” but only about “just us” (i.e.the black community promoting its own importance in history).
There is, in fact, evidence to support DeVernay’s representation of LBJ and I would submit that it is the white supremist myth of white people bringing justice to the poor downtrodden blacks that is the bias that DuVernay is challenging and has caused all the criticism of the film. That the “us” in “just us” is really white folks angered that it is the myth of white moral superiority that is being challenged and that DeVarnay’s film provides a healthy corrective.
It is important to note why the fight about Selma The Movie is so important now. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner highlight the increase in police violence in low income nonwhite communities or perhaps it has just increased the exposure of police brutality due to the new technologies of cell phones and social media. Either way, it has increased racial tensions. At the same time, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 combined with efforts to roll back voting rights with new voter suppression laws in many states, has also contributed to increased awareness of racial inequality. In volatile times, society and the dominant culture are especially interested in how they can control the “story” to maintain the status quo.
While there are many documentaries which present an excellent and accurate record of the civil rights struggle (notably in my mind, “Eyes on the Prize”) this is more about how popular cultural representations shape a society’s perspective. I would venture to say that most Americans’ deepest emotional beliefs about their identity and place in history and the world are formed at least in part, if not wholly, through the cultural representations around them rather than through academic research and factual reasoning. In this context it appears that most white Americans still believe that white people are innately superior to black people by virtue of our role in helping black people escape their oppression and poverty (the cause of which is conveniently vague –oh yeah, there was slavery, but I wasn’t alive then so its not my fault, besides we were the good guys in WW!! saving the Jews from the Nazis–which gets two weeks in most American high school curricula while slavery gets one day).
Of course these days popular and social media far outweigh what you learn in school as the social arbiters so I would like to take a moment here to put Selma in the context of the factual history vs. the other fictionalized media accounts of racial struggle and racial advancement in the last few years.
Jan 14 2015
New York City’s first police inspector general released a scathing report on the use of chokeholds by the NYPD.
The city’s first inspector general for the NYPD issued a stinging report Sunday questioning whether cops unnecessarily resort to prohibited chokeholds as a “first act” when words could calm things down instead.
In his first report, Inspector General Philip Eure found that in 10 recent cases involving chokeholds – the same banned maneuver responsible for the July 2014 death of Eric Garner – the cops received little or no discipline from higher-ups.
Eure questioned why, in four of the 10 cases, cops wound up using chokeholds as a “first act” against citizens who’d only confronted them verbally, not physically. [..]
Though the report focuses only on the 10 cases, the IG said the pattern he discovered has inspired him to examine a broader sample of use-of-force cases “in order to ascertain whether police officers are escalating encounters and using force too quickly in a systemic manner.”
The other problem that the report revealed that despite the call for “serious punishment” from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, most of the officers received a “slap-on-the-wrist loss of vacation days, “instruction” about police policy or no punishment at all,” all approved by then Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
One of the results of the massive slowdown by NYPD after the murders of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos is that crime rates were not impacted, adding to the argument that “Broken Windows” may be broken policy.
CompStat data showed that summons for parking, moving and criminal violations for the previous week are still down about 74, 65, and 71 percent compared to numbers last year. But the drop from the week before that compared to last year was even greater: all three categories showed declines of 90 or more percent.
Year-to-date murder, rape, robbery and felony assault complaints are down across the, CompStat data shows. [..]
For the critics of “broken windows” theory policing, which stipulates that paying close attention to smaller, quality-of-life issues will prevent greater crime, the NYPD slowdown has inadvertently lent them ammunition. Critics believe the mode of policing, fully supported by Mr. Bratton, unfairly targets minorities and isn’t proven to prevent spikes in crime.
Current Police Commissioner William Bratton, the author of the “Broken Windows” policy, thinks differently
“The trending of that would take a period of time that can’t be measured in the space of a week or now in the space of almost two weeks,” Mr. Bratton said. “We have certainly, undoubtedly the residual benefit of 20 some odd years of changed behavior in the city and that’s not going to be undone in the space of a couple of weeks.”
That, however, is a direct contradiction to his statement on the slowdown at a press conference , when he stated that “911 calls were being responded to, arrests were continuing to be made, and crime has continued to go down.”
He can’t have it both ways. Since 2012, the numbers support the latter. In an article at Salon by Blake Zeff, there were two factors that are proving the critics right.
Ironically, it was Kelly and Bloomberg who would help disprove their own argument. Amid increasing dissatisfaction and public protest, Kelly reportedly ordered precinct executive officers in 2012 to “audit the stop activity to assure better quality.” In 2013, the use of the tactic fell dramatically, which a law enforcement source tells Salon also derived from two additional pressures. First, then-candidate de Blasio spent much of his campaign attacking the practice, arguing that it was racially discriminatory (in the famous “Dante ad” featuring his teenage son, the younger de Blasio said his father would be “the only candidate to end a stop and frisk era that targets minorities”). As the issue got more attention and de Blasio’s campaign surged (largely on the popularity of this argument), this source says, cops were less inclined to pursue the tactic.
The second factor was a federal judge finding the practice unconstitutional, and ruling that, as implemented, it discriminated against minorities. The result was that in 2013, Bloomberg and Kelly (while unsuccessfully appealing that federal ruling) would oversee a massive decrease in the tactic’s implementation, with under 200,000 stops recorded – less than a third the number from just two years before. The result: crime continued to fall.
Could it happen again? That was the big question heading into this year, as de Blasio promised to scale back the practice even further (though not eliminate it), while maintaining strong safety numbers. A verdict was returned this week, with the city announcing that amid a 79 percent drop in stops from last year, crime continued to fall by 4.6 percent, reaching a record low in modern city history.
Blake Zeff joined Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s “Last Word,” to discuss the controversial policy.
At Vox.com, contributor Dara Lind thinks that both sides have gotten this wrong and presents a radical idea
Now, it appears that the NYPD is returning to its usual policy: interacting with residents, but mostly by calling them out for quality-of-life violations. That’s certainly how Bratton believes the NYPD can keep New York safe. But both the slowdown policy and the aggressive “speedup” going on now aren’t effective ways to reduce crime without antagonizing communities.
In fact, evidence suggests the most important thing police can do to reduce crime is to be physically present in neighborhoods – not whizzing by in squad cars, but out on the street interacting with residents. That’s the thesis of “hotspot policing,” a more recent trend in policing strategy.
The premise of “hotspot policing” is that when police focus their efforts on places – not people – who are most susceptible to crime, they’re most able to deter criminals from operating out in the open. (You’d think that criminals would simply shift their bases of operations, but that’s not what happens.)
What makes hotspot policing work, according to a series of studies from criminologists and case studies from police departments like Minneapolis, is police being out of their cars and physically in neighborhoods alongside residents for a certain amount of time. To be most effective, police need to engage with residents in friendly ways, like cleaning up graffiti, rather than writing up the people who painted it. When both of those conditions are met, crime doesn’t just go down when police are around, or even right after they leave – a month of regular hotspot policing can reduce crime in the area for weeks afterward.
It’s past time that the leadership of the police unions stop sniping at the De Blasio administration and sit down to talk about departmental discipline, better police tactics and healing the rift with the people of NYC.
Dec 30 2014
First let me say this: Supporting the police while calling for reform and justice are not mutually exclusive. Lives matter, all of them. This is not a zero sum game. That said, some of the members of the NYC Police Department and the bigots that support the institutionalized racism of the agency have gotten on my last nerve.
The vast majority of police officers are good people, just as the vast majority of people who are protesting in the streets across this country are good people. But some of the leadership, politicians and talking heads in the mainstream media need to shut up and listen. The people of this country deserve to be heard. The heads of the police unions in NYC seem to have forgotten that they are the employees of the people of NYC. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was elected by 74% of those who voted in November, is their boss. He was elected to reform an increasing out of control and militarized police department. He’s doing a good job. You can tell by the squealing of the racists who can’t see beyond their own hatred of people who just want to live in peace, make a decent living and raise their children in a safe city. People should not have to fear the police.
For the last 20 years under two Republican corporate administrations, the NYPD was expanded and given unprecedented powers. The commissioners that were appointed by Mayors Rudolph Guiliani and Michael Bloomberg, that includes the current commissioner William Bratton, ran the department like it was an army and felt that they were not accountable to its citizens. The policies of “Broken Glass” and its offshoot “Stop and Frisk” were inherently racist and have led to the feeling of distrust in the minority communities of the city. It has led to the abuse and deaths of mostly young men of color and, now, two good men, NYC police officers, have been assassinated by a deranged man seeking vengeance. The union heads, especially NYC Police Benevolence Association President Patrick Lynch, decided to make the death of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Lui a political football for their hurt feelings.
What is Lynch so fired up about? He is vilifying Mayor De Blasio because the mayor, as the parent of mixed race children, spoke the truth about what every parent of a child of color must tell them about the police:
“This is profoundly personal to me,” de Blasio said. “I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said, ‘I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens.’ And I said to him, I did.”
De Blasio went on to note that he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is black, “have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face.”
The mayor described his son as “a good young man, [a] law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong” — but he noted that “because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.” [..]
he mayor described “that painful sense of contradiction that our young people see first, that our police are here to protect us, and we honor that, and at the same time, there’s a history we have to overcome.”
“For so many of our young people, there’s a fear,” de Blasio said. “And for so many of our families, there’s a fear.”
It has been bad enough that since the mayor made that statement that Mr. Lynch went tirade in an attempt to make the police the victims and not the innocent people they have abused and killed. He and other members of the NYPD have only exposed their racism.
Besides the incredibly insulting act of turning their backs on Mayor de Blasio as he was leaving Woodhull Hospital after the deaths of the two officers, what got me really angry with these bigots were two incidents that showed just how completely ignorant some of the police really are. The first was this stupid and, very likely expensive stunt by an anonymous “group of current and retired NYC Police Officers, Detectives, and Supervisors”
Friday morning, a small plane flew over New York City with a banner attached that read: “De Blasio, Our Backs Have Turned to You.” The sign, a reference to some NYPD officers protesting against Mayor de Blasio following the shooting deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos last weekend, was the work of a “large and unified group of current and retired NYC Police Officers, Detectives, & Supervisors,” according to blogger and former cop John Cardillo. [..]
Ashley Chalmers, the owner of the plane, told the New York Daily News that the people who rented it “wish to remain anonymous,” though Cardillo said he was contacted by the NYPD group on Friday and asked to release a statement.
Stay classy, guys, exposing, not only your bigotry, but the need to learn to write a sentence.
Then while attending the funeral of Police Officer Rafael Ramos, some of the police officers decided it was the place to throw a temper tantrum insulting the memory of a fallen officer and his grieving family:
Thousands of police officers from across the nation packed a church and spilled onto streets Saturday to honor Officer Rafael Ramos as a devoted family man, aspiring chaplain and hero, though an air of unrest surrounding his ambush shooting was not completely pushed aside.
While mourners inside the church applauded politely as Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke, hundreds of officers outside turned their backs on him to protest what they see as his support for demonstrators angry over killings by police.
The rush of officers far and wide to New York for Ramos’ funeral reminded some of the bond after the Sept. 11 attacks and Superstorm Sandy. Vice President Joe Biden promised that the “incredibly diverse city can and will show the nation how to bridge any divide.”
Still, tensions were evident when officers turned away from giant screens showing de Blasio, who has been harshly criticized by New York Police Department union officials as a contributor to a climate of mistrust that preceded the killings of Ramos and his partner, Wenjian Liu.
All this poutrage by Mr. Lynch, former Mayor Guiliani and company directed at Mayor de Blasio is because he spoke to the terrible fact that police departments throughout this country treat people of color differently and minority children, especially the boys, must be given “the talk.
“If you are stopped by a cop, do what he says, even if he’s harassing you, even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Let him arrest you, memorize his badge number, and call me as soon as you get to the precinct. Keep your hands where he can see them. Do not reach for your wallet. Do not grab your phone. Do not raise your voice. Do not talk back. Do you understand me?”
The mayor gave the talk to his biracial teenage son so this wouldn’t happen to him.
And as John Cole at Balloon Juice noted
And let’s remember what is so particularly ugly about this- this is motivated as much by the desire to not reform and to maintain the current institutional racism as it is the current contract talks and union elections. Fuck Patrick Lynch and his goons.
If some members of the NYPD don’t like the reforms that Mayor de Blasio was elected to enact, they can go find other jobs. There are plenty of qualified people, who are working two and three underpaying jobs, to replace them. Either that or learn to listen.
Dec 05 2014
What’s going on in America with regards to the killing of black men for pretty petty crimes so often now really reminds me of the old days of lynchings. In those days, the white folks in town played judge, jury, and executioner of a great many black folks who they had accused of some crime or another. They didn’t get a trial. And then they would pose around the bodies and take pictures, sometimes even smiling as if they were proud. Those pictures would be made into postcards that they could send to friends and family. Really not something to be proud of imo.
I suggest everyone take a look at some of the pics in the links below to get a feel for what it was like. These photos are not something you want kids to see or your work to see, so keep in mind that they are purely and graphically brutal. It’s jarring, seeing the actuality, and if you’re like me, you were probably raised maybe occasionally hearing references to it, but to truly understand the barbaric nature of us you have to view the pictures. Keep in mind this was just last century, and many of them in my parent’s lifetime. I will never forget the first time I was confronted with the pictures of our actual past, a past that should haunt us and disgust us.
When i think of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the others that have been shot and killed in the recent past, I think that we really haven’t moved that far past the old lynching days. We may have outlawed old style lynchings, but nowadays we’ve seemingly codified a new way of doing it: via law enforcement. And still for accused crimes, many of them petty, no trial allowed. We’re still lynching them albeit without the postcard pictures. And then we’re insulting the folks who do nonviolently protest. Sigh…
As I said, I’m forewarning you that these pictures are graphically brutal. Take a good look at our horrible past and maybe understand some of the anger: