Oops, they did it again. Mistakes were made. Another (black) man riddled with bullets on suspicion of carrying a weapon with which to threaten NYPD officers. Turns out, he had none. If I were a black man, I’d be afraid to walk the streets of NYC at night…maybe by day too. If I had a son, I’d fear for him.
Some say, why was Sean Bell hanging out in such a seedy place, a known thug warren? Shouldn’t he have known better? [Do we expect to be killed for our poor decisions in entertainment?] The police were only doing their job – they feared for their lives. [We pay, and supposedly train them to behave well in such situations. They behaved like panicked children, and they had the guns.] The police weren’t murderers! [Perhaps not, but they certainly didn’t act properly.]
Alas, many claim that there was no racism involved – after all, two of the officers were black or latino. The fact is, however, that it is only men of color who find themselves at the wrong end of these occassional mistakes. Why this is so is the real question. I would lay the blame on the NYPD itself. The training it gives its men and women before they go out into the community with lethal weapons at the ready is surely abysmal. One interviewee I heard, an expert on this, said the training is radically contradictory: If you feel in danger, shoot, vs. Shoot twice, then stop and check. Not a clear message to take out into the field. The fact that these incidents continue to happen now and then indicates to me a deeply entrenched attitude of indifference to the consequences of the bad training, the unintended killing of an innocent man of color now and then.
I imagine the mentality goes something like this: Hey, it’s a jungle out there. There are a lot of dangerous criminals, and we’re on the front line fighting them. Yeah, we make mistakes now and then – we don’t want to, we feel bad, but if you want to fight crime, that’s the price. If you hold us responsible for our mistakes, you’re on your own. Cut us some slack…
A rather self-serving point of view. Certainly not a point of view that will help eliminate the problem.