He's Wrong on Vassell Killing; and on Herman Bell, de Blasio Stabs Black America in the Back

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De Blasio. He's plain wrong. Photo: Flickr

This week, we saw two glaring examples reflecting the failed policies of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio when it comes to law enforcement and African Americans.

The first involves the NYPD shooting of a mentally impaired 34-year-old Black man, on Utica Avenue, in Crown Heights—on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The second is the mayor’s backing of an attempt to reverse a parole board’s decision to release former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member Herman Bell, who has been in prison for 45 years.

Why would de Blasio see it fit to bar Bell from spending the remaining years of his life with family? Isn't the whole purpose of parole to close one page in America's tumultuous history? Are only some people entitled to parole?

Does the mayor see his wrongful stance as something that can help future political aspirations for higher office?

This is obnoxious.

Many Black New Yorkers voted for de Blasio because he was supposedly articulating a “progressive” agenda—that was going to change the racist nature of prejudicial policing cop culture, and by extension, alter the state of mass incarceration among our people.

In this regard, has this mayor not utterly failed Black New York City?

This week, NYPD officers shot and killed 34-year-old Saheed Vassell, who suffered from bipolar disorder. Reportedly, this was well known to officers regularly stationed in this Black neighborhood. Unfortunately, one excuse we’re given here is that the responding officers, who shot Vassell, were said to be from “special units,” who didn’t know about Vassell’s mental health issues. We’re being told officers had taken him on multiple occasions to get psychiatric care.

An obvious first question here is: why weren’t any of the responding officers from the regular patrol units available? If “special units” are the ones responding in situations like this, doesn’t this defeat the whole purpose of having regular beat officers, who better understand the circumstances in a neighborhood?

Reportedly, Vassell had been given 120 summonses over the years. This detail speaks to the unjust unconscionable police practice of making money off the backs of society’s most vulnerable.

Mayor de Blasio defended this shooting, although he says, “until we have all the facts, we can’t pass judgment.”

“If you have a situation where someone may in fact be pointing a gun at innocent bystanders and acting menacingly, which the video shows happened repeatedly, you don’t wait to call help on the scene,” de Blasio said.

Let's for a moment lend credence to that statement. Then what about shooting to immobilize? None of these officers are trained to take cover and if they deem it necessary shooting in the legs instead of firing a wild barrage of bullets?

What this mayor conveniently ignores here is that several witnesses have said police gave no warning before opening fire.

Jaccbot Hinds, 40, told the New York Daily News he saw the shooting. “They just hopped out of the car. It’s almost like they did a hit. They didn’t say please. They didn’t say put your hands up, nothing.”

On Friday, police claimed they told Vassell to “drop it.” This is a revealing statement. At the very least, aren’t they admitting they never identified themselves as police? Another question arises here: were these “special unit” officers in uniforms, that would make them readily recognizable?

New York Times reporting says they were plainclothes officers.

Friday, police also reportedly said it took a maximum of 10 seconds before the time they arrived at the scene and shot Vassell.

Some witnesses say police fired on Vassel—even after he had already fallen to the ground.

“We hear the first shot, the guy went down and then they started firing again,” said another witness, who only identified herself as Angie.

Several witnesses said Vassell was a good person, suffering from mental problems, which apparently started when he witnessed the killing of a friend years ago.

The mental instability of this man will be used against him to justify this NYPD killing. The mentally ill are now convenient scapegoats by those resistant to change in the gun-control debate. However, trigger-happy policing isn’t being questioned by politicians—even in jurisdictions run by supposedly “progressive” politicians.

Laquan McDonald was shot dead, by Officer Jason Van Dyke, as he was walking away, in a manner similar to Walter Scott, in Democratic Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s Chicago.

Besides Mayor de Blasio’s backing of this week’s NYPD killing of Saheed Vassell, he is also supporting calls for the rescinding of a parole board’s decision to release Herman Bell from prison—where he has spent the last 45 years of his life.

This is another act of betrayal by this mayor against the Black community.

Herman Bell was sentenced to 25 years to life for the 1971 killing of NYPD police officers, Joseph Piagentini, and Waverly Jones. Bell was then a member of the Black Liberation Army and was a former Black Panther as well. It must be noted that: The Black Liberation Army and Black Panther Party were groups which emerged because of systemic institutional racial injustice—like the, ongoing, racist police violence and murder we continually see, which is still being excused by politicians.

Is a “progressive” politician like Mayor de Blasio saying that factor has no bearing here? All that history never occurred?

Bell, 70, by all accounts, has been a model prisoner. In fact, the New York Parole Board granted Bell parole because they said he expressed remorse and was likely to lead a “law-abiding life.” The son of Officer Waverly agreed Bell should be released—and told the parole board so.

In a letter, to the New York Parole Board, Waverly Jones Jr., advocated for Bell’s release saying, “The simple answer is it would bring joy and peace as we have already forgiven Herman Bell publicly. … On the other hand, to deny him parole again would cause us pain as we are reminded of the painful episode each time he appears before the board.”

But, Wednesday, a state judge decided to hear a legal challenge registered by the wife of Officer Piagentini. And the PBA—and Mayor de Blasio have asked the parole board to reverse this decision.

Mayor de Blasio said this to the parole board “Paroling Mr. Bell sends the dangerous signal that killing a police officer is anything less than the most heinous of crimes.” He called the board’s decision to release Bell a “tragic and incomprehensible decision.”

Here we see an insightful example of the double-standard politicians, like Mayor de Blasio, project and how the lives of everyone—except Black people are valued. The real message here is: when it comes to a decision between the lives of cops and Black people, only the lives of cops are sacrosanct.

Black lives just don’t matter much.

We should not be surprised by de Blasio’s betrayal. He’s been punked by police—and has been in full retreat mood ever since cops turned their backs on him, at the funerals of slain police officers. Was any officer reprimanded for these acts of insubordination? And how could this mayor hire someone like Bill Bratton, a champion of racist “broken windows” policing?

Herman Bell was sentenced to 25 years to life. That means, given certain conditions, he should be granted parole. By all accounts, those conditions have been met.

What the PBA, politicians, and police apologists are saying here is simple: any Black person who kills a cop, regardless of the circumstance, and regardless of how they have lived they life while incarcerated, should never be released from prison.

A life sentence will be required for those who kill police—but not for police who murder unarmed Blacks.

Juxtapose Herman Bell’s parole situation to the 20-year sentence former Officer Michael Slager was given for cold-bloodedly murdering Walter Scott, a veteran, in South Carolina. Some declared justice in that case because: it represents a rare occurrence of a cop going to prison for unjustly killing a Black person.

But let’s remember this: Slager was not convicted in the only trial he faced, which ended in a hung jury—despite Feidin Santana’s bystander video, which shows gruesome cold-blooded murder. We will never know if Slager would’ve been convicted in another trial, because he pled guilty due to fear.

Why didn’t this killer-cop face a life-sentence for the murder he perpetrated? How much of Slager’s 20-year term will he serve?

The spineless behavior of Mayor de Blasio must be denounced by Black New Yorkers. If this mayor can’t stand up now that he’s in his second term, when will he?

Malcolm X warned us about these kinds of liberals.

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