2014-07-25 / Columnists

An Intern’s Take

Law and Disorder
By Ilyassha Shivers

The recent murder of an unarmed man selling illegal cigarettes is very much connected to the violence that takes place in communities of color. I got it, he broke the law, but why did he have to die?

From my perspective, there is an underlining issue that continues to be ignored, but let’s address it in this article. There is an obvious lack of training and use of discretion among our police officers. Under our mayor, we were promised a new way of policing in New York. This is far from the truth. The change in the culture and mentality of the police department that we were promised remains questionable.

In 1994 there was a similar case where the choke hold tactic was used. Anthony Baez was killed from an illegal choke hold when he appeared to be resisting arrest.

The situation with Mr. Eric Garner known as the “Gentle Giant” reminds many New Yorkers of the Baez incident. There are reports that Mr. Garner lay motionless and unresponsive for more than 7 minutes before receiving medical attention. The EMS workers are shown on video trying to talk to the victim rather than administering CPR. These workers have since been relieved of their duty, but who was in charge of the scene? What is the procedure when those who are paid to provide medical attention arrive at a crime scene? Were they supposed to demand the officers remove the handcuffs so they could provide medical attention to Mr. Garner? It is clear that there is a lack of respect exercised when dealing with individuals in community of color. The officers in the Baez case were brought to justice, but 20 years later we are still dealing with the question of misuse and excessive use of force in communities of color by members of the NYPD. The problem has many layers and cannot be fixed overnight. There must be some changes in police policy along with accountability measures. Bad policing can no longer be ignored. Officers that break the law must be punished to the highest level of the law. It sets a bad precedent when police officers appear to be above the law which they are paid to uphold. Please know that I am by no means disregarding the need for police officers and the very important role they play in our society. Our police officers have a difficult job. It is further misconstrued when you flood communities of color with officers who are unfamiliar and have little to no experience dealing with the people they are being paid to protect. In every walk of life you have professionals and then you have those who are there to collect a pay check. There are also officers on the police force who need to re-examine their professional choice. To put it bluntly, do everyone a favor and go find another job. To the many officers who continue to do an exemplary job of policing our communities, we thank you and understand that a few bad apples cannot spoil the entire bunch.

While reviewing the events of this weekend I watched a movie called Dark Blue. The movie is a tale of police corruption within the LAPD. The movie begins with the beating of Rodney King which took place in 1991. In that case there was also a video tape of his arrest, however the officers were acquitted. Many of us can still recall watching on television numerous days of rioting that took place in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident. It is fair to conclude that what is seen on tape does not always translate into justice. What do you think about the recent arrest and consequent death of Mr. Garner? Send your comments and suggestions to me at shiverswave@gmail.com. Remember keep the faith, and read The Wave

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