(U-WIRE) SAN DIEGO – In the wake of the murder indictments of four of New York City’s finest, the nation’s largest police department and the city’s top officials are experiencing a wave of public resentment and protests.
Their outrage is justified.
The indictments of the four white police officers came after they fired 41 shots at an unarmed West African immigrant. Amadou Diallo, from Guinea, stood defenseless in the vestibule of his apartment building Feb. 4 and was finished off by 19 shots in a hail of gunfire.
Through their attorneys, the officers, Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy, said they believed the 22-year-old Diallo, with no criminal record, was armed with a gun and was poised to shoot.
Even if that were the case, what is the reasoning for nearly emptying their weapons? It is not the first time the elite Street Crimes Unit of the New York Police Department has come under the fire of community and national protest.
And Diallo’s murder is just the tip of the iceberg of the long list of complaints fueling the fire of thousands of protesters – their anger directed mainly toward Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir.
In Brooklyn, four other officers stand trial for sodomizing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997. More than 20 Manhattan police officers may soon be tried for allegedly receiving free sex in exchange for shielding a downtown brothel from police raids. Particularly infuriating to many of the protesters is the NYPD’s policy of “stop and frisk.” These confrontations are purported to be attempts to get guns off the streets.
However, of the reported 40,000 stop and frisks in the last two years, only 9,500 arrests were made for weapons violations. And courts threw out nearly half of those cases because the searches were deemed unconstitutional.
It is maddening because these pat-downs are directed mainly toward minorities. A New York Daily News poll of 100 young black and Hispanic men found that 81 had been stopped and frisked at least once.
Seeking answers to the plethora of problems plaguing New York’s finest, the U. S. Attorneys for Manhattan and Brooklyn, the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer have launched investigations into police misconduct and into the NYPD’s method for punishing its officers.
Cases of police brutality in New York are so frequent, that last year alone, the city was ordered to pay $23.8 million in restitution to victims and their families.
And Giuliani is so busy in attempting to clean up his city that he has neglected to clean up the police department.
He is quick to remind his citizens that the crime rate in the Big Apple is at its lowest level in decades. But can the numbers be believed when those hired to protect the city’s residents and keep the numbers low are committing many of the crimes?
Giuliani’s constituents aren’t buying it either. Fittingly, the would-be senator’s job approval ratings have plummeted from an all time high of 74 percent in 1998 to a hardly comforting 50.
If Giuliani cannot even manage his own city, how can he be expected to perform well in Washington as New York’s junior senator?
-John Woods is a student at San Diego State University.