#35 NYPD Pink (2000)

All Rights Reserved © 2000 Thomas W. Day

Act like you're surprised. The four white, plain-clothes cops, who fired 41 shots at and into an unarmed man in New York who endangered their lives by attempting to show them his identification (or give them his billfold), were acquitted in a New York court.

Score: Cops "we can shoot 'em whenever we want," Citizens 0.

The press pretended to be amazed that the court's judge (Judge Judy?) spent the weekend after the decision, celebrating, with the defense lawyers in an upscale politicos' hangout. I guess that tells us more than we wanted to know about the intelligence of the press. This decision has been written so many times that no one needed to consider new text for the story. Change one name and it's a wrap. The surprise is that anyone imagined the verdict would be any different.

Never happen. Not in my lifetime, anyway.

There has been a lot of half-hearted hand wringing about how "the system" needs to be changed and how the police ought to do a few weeks of community service PR to "regain the public's trust." Yeah, that would do it for me. Plaster a couple of Deputy Dog posters on the phone poles and we're all friends, just like before a pack of freaked-out cops shot the hell out of a man coming home from work.

Even the jurors got into the act. Juror Tom Knowles said that Amadou Diallo "looked at the police officers, they identified themselves, and as they moved toward him, he turned and backed away. . . Why? Why? We won't know those answers."

I can't imagine, either. Four badly dressed freaks, waving guns, come charging up, shouting gibberish (none of the witnesses said the four coherently identified themselves), and I'm gonna assume the wackos are cops. Every time.

Given the same circumstances, I'd assume (especially in that slime pit we Americans loving call "New York City") that they're muggers (even if they're wearing uniforms and badges) and I'd try to throw them my billfold in hopes that, while they pounced on the money like a pack of starving hyenas, I could sneak out of sight and shooting range. Since this group of New York's elite managed to hit their target 19 out 41 shots at 15 feet and closer, I think Diallo made the only safe move available. It was obviously his bad luck that these fruitballs managed to hit him at all.

In case you haven't read about this story, the four gunmen were part of the NYPD's "elite" Street Crimes Unit. "Elite" means they are so skilled that they can hit a well lit, mostly stationary target at fifteen feet, 19 times out of 41. The coroner said the cops managed to hit Diallo several times after he was dead. It is reasonable to assume that their accuracy improved once he quit "resisting arrest." When the victim tried to go for his billfold, one of the timidly elite NYPD'ers shouted "Gun!" and, as he and his partner tried to run away from the vestibule where their victim was trapped, they blasted away like their guns were stuck in Lethal Weapon mode.

It gets worse. One of NYPD's finest tripped over his own flat feet, which convinced the other nutballs that their little buddy had been shot. That really scared 'em . Nothing irritates NYPD cops more than when one of their victims scares them into falling down. The other three totally panicked and emptied their guns into the dying, but still exceptionally terrifying, citizen who was threatening them by creating a very large and hazardous pool of blood. The ricochet from the next round of wild shots scared the cops, even more, and convinced them that the dead guy was shooting back with his James Bond billfold. When the cops ran out of bullets and quit peeing in their pants, they discovered Diallo was long dead. After they gave him time to be really dead, they went looking for a weapon and discovered he didn't have one. That pissed them off so much that one of them actually screamed "where's the f__ gun?" Like Diallo owed them some sort of justification for all that misspent adrenaline.

All that evidence and a New York jury still couldn't find a reason to bring a murder, manslaughter, assault, or double-parking conviction against the cops. In fact, so far, the cops haven't even been suspended without pay.

One of the other jurors said the cops' testimony was "quite believable." A few of us might think the jurors were quite gullible, if we could grant them enough credibility to believe that they're being sincere in these statements. And I can. Since we have stumbled into a system of justice that's administered by housewives and other folks who can't or won't find useful employment, any sort of idiocy done by our court system is credible. Although this decision pushes those loose limits pretty hard.

Which brings me to the point of this Rat Rant.

The problem with New York's cops is no different than cops in any other city, except for New York being New York and there's no help for that. Cops, like the military, have convinced themselves that their primary job is to protect themselves from danger. They have a union, so they can't be reprimanded for doing their jobs incompetently. They have their fraternal "brotherhood" cover-up factory, so they can't be prosecuted for crimes they commit against the rest of us. They "protect and serve" themselves; first, second, and always.

New York City's head hopeless moron, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, admitted "we probably don't always do the best of training everyone." Duh. Depends on what you're training them for, Rudy.

Cops are trained to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to a cop. What they ought to be trained to do is to protect law abiding citizens from criminals. The job is supposed to be dangerous. If it weren't, the folks doing it wouldn't be needed. Until we decide that the job of police officer is the same as (and more important than) the task of the United States Secret Service, we're all in danger of becoming their victims. (Although, your chances of being a police victim are a lot greater if you're a person of color. Almost infinitely greater.) Until the citizens of this country take away the party money for all of the non-productive games police play in their never-ending effort to stay out of harm's way, we're putting guns in the hands of people who shouldn't be allowed to play with rubber bands.

Any cop who isn't willing to throw themselves between harm's way and a law abiding citizen is nothing more than an average citizen. There's no hazard pay for that. No 20 year retirement with a pension. No lifetime disability for damaging your back carrying an oversized box of donuts. No guts, no glory; or perks. Cops, like the ones who slaughtered Amadou Diallo, add to the bad bad rep of a group with an already bad reputation. It's time to redefine the job.

March 2000

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