Stanley Crouch On Cops, Race, & Brooklyn Bridegroom Death

I think that Crouch gets this right: cops in general provide a net good to black folks, but in this case created a non-racial mistake warranting prosecution, and an assessment of policies.

1 comment:

Paul Hue said...

[Here's the text, because NYDN switches all articles to for-fee status a few days after publication.]

Stanley Crouch:

Listen to cop critics - not racial rabble-rousers

Only a willfully blind person could argue that the police of this city have not made New York a much better place to live over the last decade. Crime and murder have fallen precipitously. People live safer lives and feel much freer of the urban oppression that is crime. And those who form the blue line of men and women standing between the public and the predators we call lawbreakers are the ones responsible.

That is why I still think that the NYPD should get a raise and the best possible benefits, even though neither of those things would have saved the life of Sean Bell, who died recently in Queens because of what appears to have been lethal Keystone Kop work.

That is our dilemma. We have what is probably the finest police force in the entire United States but find ourselves facing a tragedy that, given what we know now, seems to have been initiated by some irresponsible undercover officers.

This puts a great burden on not only the individual police officer but all of those in executive positions, both of whom have to grapple with accusations by the professional agitators - accusations that, rather than being focused on the specific case at hand, are based on broad stereotypes.

Addressing policy instead of rabble-rousing is something we never expect from the agitators. After all, that would demand thought as opposed to repeated racial cliches.

Fortunately, some are still looking for honest answers. Richard Green is a man I met while working on a task force that Rudy Giuliani put together to investigate the relationship of the NYPD to the community in the wake of the Abner Louima assault in a Brooklyn police station.

Green is a thoughtful community activist from Brooklyn. For over 20 years, he has worked with community kids as well as police. He proposes that the department set aside its semiautomatic weapons and return to the six-shot .38 - because very few officers ever find themselves using a weapon in the line of duty.

But a former instructor at the Police Academy tells me that changing weapons will not make up for bad policing. And to him, the Sean Bell case reeks of poor police work. He says that an undercover cop is never supposed to challenge a suspect unless the officer is alone and has no choice. Otherwise, he is supposed to provide surveillance only and let the uniformed officers do the challenging, the arresting and, if necessary, the fighting.

"The amount of shots fired was absurd because no bullets were coming from the men inside of the vehicle," the former instructor went on to say. "One officer fired 30 rounds. That was a Wild West moment, not the work of a professional whose job is to go by the book and improvise only when necessary. I have heard nothing that provides an adequate justification for the actions that led to Sean Bell's death. Beyond that, according to the book, an officer is never supposed to fire on a moving vehicle unless someone inside is firing at him."

There are those who are thinking about policy, and there are those who are appalled and, of course, there are those making plenty of divisive noise.

If it were not like that, it wouldn't be America in the 21st century.

Originally published on December 4, 2006