2002-03-09 / Columnists

From the G-Man

By Gary G. Toms

From the G-Man

Plea To A PBA President

Hey people! I have spoken to a number of people recently, black and white, who are very upset about the decision to overturn the convictions of the cops charged in the Abner Louima case. While much of their anger is directed at the decision, there is just as much anger about how the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) President, Patrick Lynch, is reacting and handling the situation.

At several press conferences, Lynch has stood firm in his support of the officers, and he came across as smug and arrogant to many. Some of those who share that sentiment happen to be "Blue Knights" as well.

"It's one thing to support your colleagues and brothers, but when you act like you don't care about those that have been affected by this disgusting act, that's something I can't understand. It sends a message that cops are better than anyone else," said a friend of mine who works out of a precinct in Brooklyn.

"I'm afraid of what this reversal will do to police community relations. I'm even more afraid of how Lynch is coming across. With the programs we have put in place to establish communication with the people in the neighborhoods we patrol, this could do irreparable damage to our relationship with them. Truth be told, if I were African-American or Haitian, I'd be pretty pissed off too," said another friend who has 20 years on the job in Queens.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have publicly called out Lynch. The first time was in the Amadou Diallo case. He came across as arrogant and insensitive then, and the Louima decision proves that he has not changed. In my view, this is not a good thing for the NYPD or its members.

I can understand the point that Schwarz may not have had a direct involvement in the torture and brutalizing of Louima, and he will have another trial to prove his innocence, but to act as though nobody did anything other than Volpe is insulting the intelligence of many people, be they black, white, red, yellow or whatever.

It is beyond all rational thought that anyone could believe that Volpe accomplished his vile act all by himself. One man could not administer such punishment without help. It is just physically impossible. Someone served as a lookout. Someone had to physically hold Louima down while Volpe played the crazed proctologist. Someone had to hear Louima screaming like a banshee in the stationhouse bathroom, and someone threw up because they were sickened by the act.

It was the plantation atmosphere all over again. It's where the slave is being whipped mercilessly until his back is practically severed and blood flows like water. The family members (plantation owners) who recognized that slaves were human beings cringed at the act because they knew what the "master" was doing was wrong. Still, they remained silent and went along with the system. They feared what the "master" would do to them.

I'm sure Louima's screams penetrated the coldest of hearts, but the fear of crossing the "blue line" was greater than making an attempt to save the young Haitian. Again, the members of the "police family" remained silent and went along with the system. They too were afraid of what the "master" would do to them.

I have grave concerns, as an African-American man, about what this reversal will do to the future of police-community relations. I will go one step further and say that I have even greater concerns about race relations in this country as the trial approaches. If no one answers for this brutal act, the flame of patriotism that is sweeping the country will be extinguished. People of color, in New York City, held back when the Rodney King verdict came in. They held back, thanks to the efforts of Reverend Al Sharpton, when the Diallo verdict came in. They held back when the Dorismond decision came in. Now, they are asked to endure, yet again, as the Louima case is revisited. Will they hold back this time? I'm a member of the African-American community, and even I don't know the answer to that question.

The PBA President would accomplish a great deal, for himself and the NYPD, if he stopped saying how great Schwarz and the other officers are, and started saying that the NYPD will put forth every effort to find the sorry bastards who took part in torturing Abner Louima. That's how you keep people like Al Sharpton at bay. That's how you keep the NAACP and other civil rights organizations off your back. That's how you get communities of color to believe in the NYPD once again. Lynch has not made any such statement, past or present, and it is high time that he did. A president is one who leads Mr. Lynch. So start leading!

To the captains of the local precincts, in the Rockaways and throughout the five boroughs, I say this. Take the lead in assuring that good, long-standing relationships with the community are maintained. As the trial date for Schwarz approaches, find a way to bond even closer to communities of color. If that means sending a contingent of African, Latino, Asian or Haitian-American officers out into the communities, then do it! Don't wait for the hierarchy of the NYPD to make the call because by then it may be too late. If the higher-ups have a problem facilitating such procedures, then it proves that they have, unfortunately, allowed themselves to be "Lynched."

See you next week!

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