2006-12-08 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

Where Are Our Local Politicians When Shots Are Fired In Rockaway? (Part I)
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Maybe I've been doing this job too long, or perhaps it's the 33 years that I spent teaching in classrooms in Far Rockaway and Arverne that make me so jaded and skeptical, but I can't help it.

Perhaps, as people say, I'm pro-cop because I have a son who is an NYPD Lieutenant.

In any case, as Popeye once famously said, "I yam what I yam."

That makes me wonder about the world and our local politicians who seem to have so little class and will do anything to get some headlines, to be on television alongside Mayor Mike Bloomberg or racial arsonist Al Sharpton. It doesn't seem to matter who they're with, as long as they get their "face time" on the nightly news.

The mayor says that the number of shots the police took were "inappropriate," then he speaks to some experts and reverses his field by saying, "I'm no law enforcement expert." He should have thought of that in the first place.

City Councilman James Sanders, State Senator Malcolm Smith and Assemblywoman Michelle Titus stand shoulder to shoulder with the worst racist in New York City history and one of its consummate liars and they all count to 50 by ones, denoting the number of shots that the five cops took at the three men in the car.

You doubt that Sharpton is a racist and a liar? Think of Tawana Brawley. Think of the Harlem fire. Think of the Rockaway Five. Think of all the other cases where he lied to make a racial point. How can any politician with any credibility, and that includes the mayor, stand shoulder to shoulder with Sharpton? The only people who take Sharpton seriously are the press and other black politicians.

The same week that Sean Bell was shot by the police officers in Jamaica, a 16-year-old youth named Chris Glenn was shot and killed in the lobby of his Ocean Bay building. He is just the latest in a long line of young black men who have been shot and killed nearby Rockaway city housing complexes this year.

The number of those killed by guns in Rockaway in the past two years is staggering. The numbers of those impacted by gun crime is even more staggering and yet not one black leader or politician has stood up and complained that black on black crime is destroying their community. Not one.

In fact, the same week that the Bell shooting dominated the papers, Ronnell Wilson was on trial in Brooklyn for the murder of two black NYPD detectives who he killed by shooting them both in the back. The two, who were undercover in an attempt to take a Staten Island gun dealer off the streets, died as heroes.

Did you ever hear Sharpton decry their murder? Did you ever hear Jim Sanders decry their murder? Did you ever hear Malcolm Smith decry their murder? Did you ever hear Jesse Jackson decry their murder? Did you ever hear Charles Barron decry their murder? Did you ever hear Ed Williams or the NAACP decry their death?

You did not. There is no press advantage in praising police officers who died keeping guns out of a predominantly black neighborhood or in decrying their death..

Ed Williams, the local leader of the NAACP talks a good game and he was standing up there with Sharpton and the mayor this week.

Why not stand up before the cameras and complain about Glenn's death the way they did about Bell's.

There are two reasons. Few of the politicians care to address a problem within their own community and the daily press, which includes television news, doesn't care very much when one young black man kills another. A black teen killing another black teen is no longer news for the dailies and the television pundits. A cop, whether white or black, killing a young black man is sensational news.

Then, it's let loose the dogs of war.

In the long run, however, it is the Chris Glenn story as the latest in a long line of Chris Glenn's that is the more enduring story.

It is a story that the black community must address and will not. Every time I write about this issue, I am called a racist by some in the black community. I get calls from Sanders and Williams telling me that they are just about to start wonderful new programs to address black on black crime in Rockaway. What happened to those programs? You'll have to ask Sanders, Williams and the rest of the agitators who use a police shooting to get ink.

I understand from my sources that Sanders did go to see Glenn's family and is assisting them in many ways. I can't knock him for that, and he would tell me if I asked that he did not stand up in front of the cameras about Glenn because there are no cameras to stand in front of. He would be right.

Sanders stands shoulder to shoulder with Councilman Charles Barron, a former member of the Black Panthers, who recently excoriated Mal Smith and other black leaders for not being aggressive enough on the recent shooting in Jamaica.

"People like Malcolm Smith and Tom White, we don't usually see them on these issues, are now trying to provide leadership and they could misguide our community if they don't listen to those of us who are veterans of this. They don't know what they are doing. They are just bumbling," Barron told reporters. This is the man who Sanders looks to for support and who he supports often on "black issues."

Ed Williams stood in front of the Channel One cameras last week and said, "The murders of our young black brothers at the hands of police have to stop." What he should have said is that the death of his young black brothers at the hands of other young black brothers has to stop as well. He did not say that, and I doubt that you ever will hear him say that, at least in public.

Take a look at just a small portion of the list of death and mayhem in Rockaway during the past several months.

May 26 - Rookie cops take guns from young men in Hammels.

June 28 - Teens from St. John's Home rob a number of people at gunpoint in a rat pack spree.

That same week, a Redfern teen was shot dead in a drive-by shooting.

August 4 - A young man is shot at the Redfern Houses and walks to St. John's Hospital for treatment.

August 11 - A man shot to death in his car crashes into the boardwalk.

August 25 - Four teens are shot and wounded in a shooting nearby McDonald's in Far Rockaway.

September 1 - a group of teens pistol-whips a Rockaway man.

September 26 - A young Redfern man is killed, sparking a candlelit vigil in his honor.

There are dozens of more incidents; too many to tell in a column with a limited word count. You should, however, get the picture.

What happened in Jamaica on November 25? I don't know, I wasn't there. Neither were the mayor nor any of those who stood with Sharpton.

Next Week:

My take on what happened in Jamaica on November 25.

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