Friday, July 9, 2010

The People vs. The Police: A Peaceful Solution

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was walking towards the West Side of Manhattan and I read in headlines that the four cops who fired 41 rounds into unarmed, 23 year old Amadou Diallo was acquitted by a jury. I did not know Amadou personally, but that pain felt personal. I was stunned. I remember standing and staring at the news scrolling across the news ticker and it seemed like everything around me was just frozen, this must be the twilight zone, I thought. As I continued walking, and looking at the faces of my fellow New Yorkers, no one else seemed to have been affected by this tragedy. I was dumb founded, hurt and sick to my stomach.

Here we are, a little over a decade later and not much has changed when it comes to cops getting off with light sentences or acquittals. Although Oscar Grant's killer was filmed and watched live by hundreds of people as he shot his gun into the back of  a handcuffed, unarmed Oscar Grant  he was ONLY convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Which means that he can get off with a light sentence as probation or the maximum of four years in prison. There were several things about this case that bothered me from the beginning. The day after Oscar grant was murdered I remember reading about his rap sheet and how he's been arrested before and he was possibly going to fight on the train and in my mind, I am wondering, what the heck does this have to do with him being shot in the back? Oscar's killer claimed that he was going for his taser but used his gun instead. Why would you taze a handcuffed person anyway? I am furious, along with hundreds of other people because the simple fact remains, how can a police officer not know the difference between a firearm and a taser? Furthermore, if you cannot tell the difference then you should have never been given a gun and a badge to begin with. That in itself is a tragedy.

Here it is, the day after the trial and what sense of justice is there? Here in NYC there has been NO mention of Oscar Grant in the newspaper or on our news. Nothing. CNN had breaking news about where Lebron James will be playing ball next season but never mentions the trial and the outrage that Oakland residents are feeling. Interestingly enough, when Sean Bell who was shot 50 times by NYPD on his wedding day, many people across this country never even knew about the story and that too is tragic. However, we all know that the tragedy was worsened by the fact that his shooters were also acquitted.

I gave three popular examples of death by cop and I know there are hundreds more and I am saddened just thinking about it. However, the thing that breaks my heart the most of all is the apathy I have noticed in our communities. After the Sean Bell verdict I expected the NY Riots to go down, precincts to burn, curfews imposed and for the people to take the streets with chants and call backs of "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE." Instead...silence. Al Sharpton said a little thing, the family expressed outrage but the community just shook their heads and said, "Yeah, NYPD wins again." WHAT??????? Now, I am certainly not advocating for a riot by any means, however the people taking the streets to have their voices heard is what I had in mind. At least a very loud outpouring of community support that would at least show the NYPD that we too can be unified and have each others backs. No such luck. Yesterday people were too caught up with Lebron to pay attention to Oscar Grant, but how many more of us can the police kill and we just sit back and just shake our heads? What has happened in our communities that we are no longer willing to organize ourselves, march to precincts and demand answers? What is the point of marching through the streets of any borough without the community having a sit down with the politicians and the police, so something can be done about these excessive bullets going into the bodies of young men of color?

The bottom line is that the cops are scared of the residents in the communities that they patrol. As tough as the community can be, they too fear the cops. We have a cycle of fear, mixed in with hundred of illegal guns on the streets, in addition to the rookies who have their firearms...that is a recipe for death to be rampant in our communities. Death by cop. The NYPD shot and killed one of their own last year. A young black man named Omar Edwards was mistaken for a perp and he was shot in his back and side by one of his own. It wasn't until EMS arrived to attend to his bleeding and handcuffed body that they realized he was one of them, but it was too late. Something has to give. This is about every police department in every major city vs. the people. That is a dangerous combination where communication and trust is absolutely void. It doesn't help when Mr. Sharpton makes every single thing about race and persecution of cops. Playing the blame game has never been a great source of relieving tension. The  cops who patrol the streets should have a sit down with the people in the communities that they see daily. It would be in everyone's best interest to at least know the name of the officers who are always in your building and vice versa. Is this possible? Can this dialogue happen? It can but are both parties willing?

Fuck The Police cannot be and is not a solution for peace. Cops shooting unarmed kids in the back is also not a solution. Relatedness and willingness are the key instruments to achieving peace between cops and the people. Life would be easier if the community did not fear the people who are there to protect and serve. It would also make the cops' lives easier if they actually got to know the residents in their community. This is not the end all be all solution, but it is also more than an ideal, it is indeed a possibility but the everyone must be willing to work towards a peaceful existence or more people will die, cops and the people. I feel incomplete here because I know there are huge strides that need to be made to get this thought process into an action process. I will be reaching out to community leaders and seeing what is possible. I am also willing to speak to top cops and whoever needs to get spoken to so that we can all talk together. I am not willing to just express outrage at another verdict and then do nothing about it. I can't and I won't, I need support. Who's with me?

No comments:

Post a Comment