Tag: Sean Bell

It’s About Police Exceptionalism

I think it’s time, once again, to talk about police abuse, the violation of citizens’ rights by police officers, and their being held to a different, lower standard of conduct than other citizens.  I think that’s the core of the Henry Louis Gates arrest. And I think the commentaries that focus on the illegal arrest of Dr. Gates just as examples of racism and/or classism to the exclusion of the societal role of out-of-control police are missing the boat.  Of course, the poor, people of color, immigrants, the disenfranchised, the powerless are the usual objects of police abuse.  But the primary, ugly problem that needs to be confronted is that the police are unrestrained and repeatedly commit illegal acts with impunity.

This old post from April, 2006 makes my point far better than yet another re-hashing of the illegal arrest of Dr. Gates in his own home by Cambridge Police.  And it even goes a long way toward explaining why the offending officer has been invited to a beer at the White House rather than a deposition in a federal civil rights case in which he is the named defendant.

I am now going to take my anger out for a walk.

Sean Bell, RIP

cross posted from The Dream Antilles


A Memorial To Sean Bell

I’m shaking my head at the verdict Judge Cooperman (without a jury) rendered yesterday in the Sean Bell murder case. I’m saddened and troubled.  I think I understand the roots of his acquittal verdict, and I think there has been an enormous miscarriage of justice in this case. Unfortunately, this kind of injustice probably should have been expected because of the way the law acknowledges and fosters police exceptionalism. The defense lawyers for the detectives knew it, and sought to benefit from it, and the prosecutors knew it as well, and didn’t try to block it.

Please join me in Kew Gardens.

God Damn America

Comments from the New York Times City Room blog, regarding the shooting of Sean Bell by undercover officers:

Of course the police will say that they identified themselves. However, no other witnesses at the scene heard them say anything about being police. They’re not exactly disinterested in their testimony.

– Posted by Shel

If the victims who where shot where innocent, Why did they run from the cops? Everything is always racially driven, a white cop shots a black person and Al Sharpton sets charge, What about the White Male who was killed in LONG ISLAND by a Black Male 2 months ago? WHERE THE HELL WAS AL SHARPTON FOR THE WHITE PEOPLE?

– Posted by John

Having served on NYC grand juries several times, I have heard extensive testimony about under cover operations by very brave NYC cops. Almost always the testimony involved serious drug dealing and illegal hand guns being found. The cops’ lives were almost always in danger in these situations. I never saw evidence that the cops acted recklessly.

Without under-cover stake-outs, many more crimes would be committed, and people of all races and economic settings would be in much greater danger from thugs.

The police in places like the Altima operation must actually witness felony crimes taking place or have reasonable grounds to suspect the threat of felony crimes to arrest possible perpetrators. They also must have reasonable grounds for seach and arrest.

They can’t just walk up to suspects and say, “We’re the police. Are you about to commit a felony? If so we wish to search you please.”

This particular situation ended up in a tragedy. Not a racially motivated tragedy. Just a tragedy. But most under-cover cops are brave, sensible, and dedicated, not reckless hot heads.

Trying to ram someone’s car when drunk, whether a police vehicle or a private citizens, certainly helped increase the odds of a tragedy occurring.

In the Altima case: Tragady yes, but clearly not a crime.

People who worry obsessively about police brutality should volunteer to serve on narcotics grand juries in NYC. It’s a real eye opener.

– Posted by realist

I have been struck by a member of the NYPD. My (then

pregnant) wife was threatened by a uniformed officer. We are both white. We do not live in NY. I requested an officer to take the tape [!] from his badge so I could report his number and was told to get “the **** away” or he’d introduce me to his stick.

I do not believe anything a member of the NYPD says.

– Posted by netpedant

When black males collectively start acting like responsible members of society, tragic incidents like the Bell case will go way down. The high incarceration rate of black men, and the widespread assumption that young urban men of color are carrying firearms,is not the fault of cops or Caucasians.

– Posted by James

I firmly believe that there were events that night that warranted police intervention, not for anyone to lose their lives, but when that vehicle charged at the police, it no longer matters if they had a gun or not, they were attempting to run from the cops for some reason, the friends of sean bell, including sean bell, do not have clean police records, they are not generally law abiding citizens, this whole case is very sad, good luck to the jury.

– Posted by Kim

If I am not mistaken at least one of the “victims” had a prior record and this group was “celebrating” the upcomin marriage of one of its members at a sleazy strip club known to be a drug den. You would have to gve the police at least the benefit of doubt under those circumstances.

– Posted by Whatsreallyup

A few years ago, I was put on a Manhattan Criminal Court jury. A man had entered a Midtown 5th Avenue store and stolen a 5? tall glass statue being sold for $ 28,500. It was winter and he tried to hide it under his parka, but it poked out of both the top and bottom. When he ran out of the store, he ran into two patrolmen knocking one to the ground and destroying the statue. He then ran across 5th Avenue and into the side of a taxi. He was immediately arrested by the two policemen. This was at lunchtime on a sunny day so there were hundreds of witnesses.

I say he was guilty, because not only were there hundreds of witnesses but it was all captured on video. Which we saw. Yet we only found him guilty of a lesser charge that sent him to Rikers for 15 days. It was only because we deliberated for two days that he got anything.

The reason for the lesser charge? More than half of the jury were minority and they all felt he was just a patsy. He was also a minority and they believed he was part of an insurance scam by the store and may not even have know he was stealing. They didn’t think he should get any time because the store management organized the crime. They felt he may have been just asked to move the sculpture. They couldn’t believe a minority could enter this store without being immediately surrounded by staff unless it was part of a plan. They also believed the police knew of the plan and were waiting for him.

He did not testify nor did his lawyer mention these possibilities.

It was a very frustrating experience for me. I don’t think we reached the right conclusions. Yet the majority of the jury reached their similar conclusions without ever having met each other beforehand. Their experience with authority and the legal process was clearly far different than mine.

I hope this much more serious case is decided using the law, the facts, and common sense. Whatever the result is, I hope they’re right.

– Posted by Bruce

Sean Bell: arrested 3 times (including once for firearm posession).

Joseph Guzman: arrested 9 times (including once for firearm posession). Spent 5 yrs in prison.

Trent Benefield: arrested 3 times (including once for firearm posession).

I’m sorry this young man is dead, but why such outcry over 3 dangerous law-breakers. Other than companionship to their friends and (presumably) love to their families, what contributions do/did any of these individuals make to society?

Lets get mad when the police mistakenly kill a real achiever, a real contributor… because that happens so often.

No one supports police brutality, but these three were zeros. This circus is just such a waste.

– Posted by surrr

This is America’s most cosmopolitan city, of course.