Caucasian law enforcement officers have a century-long history of killing a large percentage of black men they come in contact with. This is due, in part, to the mentality of post-slavery fear, and hatred, of the Black community that African-Americans have endured for centuries, and also due in part to inept unprofessionalism, low self-esteem, a tendency towards settling personal vendettas and an incredible lack of adequate training among law enforcement officers despite an unprecedented massive militarization of their weaponry by the Federal government.
In Garner’s case, witnesses verified Garner’s repeated statements to police that he had done nothing wrong, and despite Garner expressing his frustration with being repeatedly harassed, officers still aggressively handcuffed him and placed him under arrest with no proof that he had actually violated any law. An officer can be seen placing Garner in an illegal chokehold in footage of the incident. After telling officers multiple times that he could not breathe, his body goes limp. As several publications point out in their reporting of Garner’s death, there will most likely be rallies, memorials, and a lawsuit regarding the NYPD’s excessive use of force just as there have been in thousands of other cases around the country. One thing that will most likely not happen, as it has rarely happened in other instances, is having the officers responsible be punished for their actions. This week is the 50th anniversary of 15-year-old James Powell being shot and killed by a white NYPD officer. Before and since that time, there have been many more black men killed by officers.
Nicholas Heyward Jr. was shot in the stomach and killed by an NYPD officer in Brooklyn in 1994 when his toy gun was mistaken for a real gun during a game of cops and robbers. He was just 13-years-old. No charges were pressed against Officer Brian George who fired the fatal shot. Another case where officers were not convicted of any wrongdoing is the noted case of Amadou Diallo who had 41 shots fired at him by four officers who allegedly thought his wallet was a gun. A matter of days after the officers who killed Diallo were acquitted and mere blocks from where he was murdered, 23-year-old Malcolm Ferguson was shot and killed in his home by undercover officer Louis Rivera. Ironically, Ferguson had been arrested just a week before his death for protesting the acquittal of the officers who killed Amadou Diallo. Ousmane Zongo is another African American who was shot and killed by NYPD during a raid of the warehouse where he worked. Zongo had nothing to do with the CD/DVD operation that was being raided, but he was still shot four times by Officer Bryan Conroy because he ran. Conroy was disguised as a postal worker, so Zongo had no way of knowing that the person pointing a gun at him was actually a cop. Despite Conroy shooting Zongo after Zongo had come to a dead end and could not run any further, Conroy never received any jail time for shooting an unarmed man who was cornered and had committed no crime.
In the case of 19-year-old Tim Stansbury, Officer Richard Neri was only stripped of his gun and given a 30-day suspension for allegedly ‘unintentionally pulling his trigger’ (how does a trained police officer unintentionally pull a trigger?) and killing Stansbury while he stood on a rooftop in Brooklyn. Ramarley Graham is another teenager who was shot and killed by NYPD Officer Richard Haste. Haste claims he was responding to reports that Graham had a gun. After shooting and killing Haste in his grandmother’s bathroom, police only found a small bag of marijuana. A grand jury did not return an indictment against Haste for murdering Graham. In all these cases, the murdered men were all African-American and the officers were White. If there were a similar prolonged, sustained decades-long spate of killings of innocent White teenagers by Black police officers, America would lose its goddamn mind.
According to statistics released by the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, NYPD officers killed 21 people in 2012 with nearly 90 percent of those killed being black or Hispanic. In 2012, for example, Chicago police shot 57 people, out of whom 30 were black and 2 were white. The recent death of Eric Garner while being placed under arrest underscores the fact that men of color dying at the hands of the NYPD is not abating, and as the years pass, dozens of deaths are turning into thousands. The reality is that this is not restricted to New York alone. In every state in America there are similar cases, some of which have received national headline attention while others are quietly swept under the rug.
In March of 1997, L.A.P.D. Detective Frank Lyga, while driving an unmarked police vehicle, got into a road rage argument with another man on Ventura Boulevard. Lyga says that after the other man threatened to “cap his ass”, he drew his service weapon and shot him. The man died. He later said that “this guy had ‘I’m a gang member’ written all over him.” The only problem was the “gang member” was actually Kevin Gaines and he was an off-duty L.A.P.D. police officer. He was black while Lyga is white and more telling, recently, Electronic Urban Report broke a story on a November 18, 2013 memo written by an unnamed officer to L.A.P.D. Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger. In the memo, the unnamed officer reports that Detective Frank Lyga had threatened to go to the media about the shooting being ‘a sanctioned hit’ on Gaines by the LAPD, meaning certain White officers had approved the murder of Kevin Gaines. Lyga reportedly told 37 people, including LAPD members, California Highway Patrol officers, Glendale Police Department staff, L.A. Port Police, and L.A. Unified School Police that Chief Bernard Parks had angered him by wanting to send him to another unit in attempt to “hide him for awhile.” Lyga reportedly boasted and laughed about blackmailing Parks, according to the memo. When an attorney asked him if he had any regrets, Lyga says “I said, ‘Yeah, I regret that he was alone in his truck at the time. Hear that? Alone in the truck at the time … I could have killed a whole truckload of them … and would have been happily doing it. ”As a result of the story going public, Lyga is now the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation and has been ‘relieved of duty pending the outcome of the investigation.’ - the usual.
We have repeatedly seen the anguish, suffering and tears of thousands of mothers of African-Americans such as Kenneth Harding, Derrick Jones, Derrick Gaines, Rahiem Brown Jr., James Rivera and Oscar Grant, all gunned down by police. White BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, the killer cop who shot an unarmed handcuffed Oscar Grant in the back at point-blank range in front of hundreds of BART subway riders in Oakland, Ca on New Years morning 2009 was given what amounted to a slap on the wrist. Since the Grant verdict day, instead of a decline in police violence we have seen a marked increase. We’ve seen an outrageous 680,000 people stopped and frisked in New York with over 95% of those stops being Black and Brown men with less than 5% resulting in any weapons recovered.
Stop and Frisk led to the shooting death of unarmed Ramarley Graham. We’ve seen police shoot a motorist Hernandez L. Dowdy in Memphis, TN after someone falsely accused him of car jacking. We’ve seen police in Pasadena shoot 19-year old Kendrick falsely accused of stealing a computer. We’ve seen an officer in Chicago shoot an innocent bystander named Rekia Boyd after he mistakenly thought the man standing next to her had a gun. We’ve seen police in White Plains New York shoot unarmed army vet, a senior citizen named Kenneth Chamberlain Snr. who accidently set off his medical alert pendant. The officer at the center of the killing, as in most of these cases, has a sordid history of brutality and racism. We seen Oakland police shoot high school senior Alan Bluford in the back and then lie about the self-inflicted wound the officer suffered. He shot himself and blamed Bluford. OPD has still refused to officially identify the officer.
I could go on for days citing story after story along with the fact that in many cities all over the United States police brutality incidents and police killing civilians are on the rise. For example, in Los Angeles which was supposed to have drastically reformed their police department, we seen a huge increase in police shootings. The department tried to blame it on citizens attacking them more; that assertion has since been proven to be false. What’s crazy about L.A. is that police pushed to get the city council to support a law that will keep officers records sealed from the public. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement released a ‘Report on Extrajudicial Killings’, which found that Blacks are being murdered by the police at a rate of one every forty hours. Rosa Clemente of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement stated that, “Nowhere is a Black man or woman safe from racial profiling, invasive policing, constant surveillance and overriding suspicion. All Black people- regardless of education, behavior or dress- are subject to the whims of the police in this epidemic of state-initiated or condoned violence.
In America, on average, every 40 hours a Black man or woman is executed by the police in America, be it justified or not. It takes nine months for a baby to be born and at least over ten years before it approaches pre-adolescence before the teenage years. Is this not the definition of systemized genocide? You do the math. I’ll say it again- if there were a similar prolonged, sustained decades-long spate of killings of innocent White teenagers by Black police officers, America would lose its goddamn mind. Reflect upon this for a minute- the Black hip-hop artistes that America were most scared of, or who espoused lyrics that were reaching a large portion of the Black populace, were quickly emasculated. The Jewish-controlled Hollywood machine made them offers they could not refuse in order to depict them in a decidedly pro- law enforcement light. Dig deep down into your psyche and see if you even realized that these men present themselves in your minds more in the roles society eventually feels comfortable placing them in - as policemen, sworn to uphold the law- their laws.
1. Detective Odafin Tutuola in ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’ (Ice T).
2. Internal Affairs Investigator Kyle Timkins in ‘Rampart’, as well as an angry police captain in ‘21 Jump Street’ (Ice Cube).
3. Police Detective Jake Rodriguez in ‘Gang-Related’ (2 Pac).
4. Police Detective Moses Jones in ‘American Gangster’ (RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan).
5. Officer Maldonado in ‘Freelancers’ (50 Cent- Curtis Jackson).
6. Police Detective Emilio in ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ (Tone Loc).
7. Lieutenant Jim Bravura in ‘Max Payne’ and Officer Brandon in ‘New Year’s Eve’ (Ludacris).
8. Police Officer on ‘Hawaii Five-0’ (Sean. P. Diddy Combs)
9. Detective Paul in ‘Training Day’ (Dr. Dre)
10. Detective Turner in ‘Venom’ and Undercover Cop in ‘Feel it in the air’ (Method Man)
11. Detective Collins in ‘Date Night’ (Common)
12. Lieutenant Miller in ’Carmen’ (Mos Def)
13. F.B.I. Special Agent Mosley Drummy in ‘X-Files: I want to believe’ (Xzibit)
The fact is a majority of Black actors and men of influence regardless of vocation in America at some point are required to play the role of cops- or dress up as women. If they refuse, it generally means the end of their careers. L.L. Cool J, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, Reginald Vel Johnson, Michael Warren, Taurean Blacque, Steve Harris, Jennifer Beales, even Tracy Morgan, Sonja Sohn, Martin Lawrence, Laurence Fishburn, Michelle Hurd, Regina King, Tracie Thoms, Erik King, Jamie Foxx, Don Cheadle, Corey Reynolds, Malik Yoba, Sidney Poitier, Danny Glover, Gregory Hines, Holly Robinson-Peete, Phillip Michael-Thomas, Chris Tucker, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Morgan Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Will Smith and dozens of other Black actors eventually learned and accepted this, albeit unwillingly.
A credible national database on use of force by police is a longtime goal of criminologists and reformers. A 1996 Bureau of Justice report notes that for decades, criminal justice experts have been calling for increased collection of data on police use of force. “We don't have a mandate to do that”, William Carr, a FBI spokesperson told the Los Vegas Review Journal. “It would take a request from Congress to collect that data.” Carr's claim is false because the ‘1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act’ instructs the Attorney General to “acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers and to publish an annual summary of the data acquired” yet 20 years later this hasn’t happened.
Many, if not all, police accountability activists believe the police are wounding and killing more people than they were five or ten or twenty years ago, and that a higher percentage of the incidents are unjustified. The trend, they say, is all the more alarming because it has accompanied an overall decline in violent crime.
Information on police violence exists. Every time a cop fires a gun or otherwise uses force, details about the incident go into a case file. What's missing is an effort to consolidate the information, much less analyze it. “All the federal government would have to do is say (to police departments), provide this data or you won't receive funding,” says criminologist David Klinger, a former police officer. But the administration, like previous ones, isn't inclined to do so, and while a bipartisan group in Congress seeks information about people killed by the U.S. military, there's no comparable effort to uncover information about people killed by the U.S. police.
Invasive policing is only one aspect of the U.S. states comprehensive containment strategies to exploit Black people and to smother resistance.
To contain the upsurge of the Black liberation movement of the 1960’s and 70’s and protect the system of white supremacy, the institutional forces of racism have worked through governments at every level to destabilize the Black community via community divestment, massive employment discrimination, outsourcing, gentrification and other forms of economic dislocation. In addition, schools, housing, healthcare, other social services and transportation in Black communities have been denied equitable provision and distribution of public goods and resources to demographics other than Caucasian.
The U.S. state maintains and reinforces these economic injustices with the militarized occupation of Black communities by the police and a web of racist legislation like the ‘war on drugs’, discriminatory polices like ‘three strikes’ and ‘mandatory minimum’ sentencing. The result is a social system that mandates the prison warehousing of millions of Black people and extra-judicial killings where law enforcement killers act with impunity and, more often than not, are rewarded and promoted for murder. The oppression and police occupation of Black communities parallels the brutalization, denial of human rights and killings being committed by the Israeli occupying forces in Palestine. Nothing short of the structural integrity and survival of the Black community is at stake when we consider the historic record. America’s track record speaks for itself. Something must be done to stop these killings and have the officers, who continuously murder innocents based on the color of their skin, held accountable.