One More Dead: Akai Gurley And Bill Bratton's Broken Windows

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Bill Bratton -- his "broken windows" policing continues to take its toll with broken lives

Akai Gurley is the latest victim -- an unarmed Black man shot and killed by a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio say it was an apparent accident, when the police officer shot 28-year-old Gurley dead after an encounter in a dark stairway in the Louis H. Pink Houses project in Brooklyn's East New York section.

Two officers had been on vertical patrol; this is when police walk down the stairways from the roof of a building to the first floor. The officers were on the eighth floor landing when Akai Gurley and a female friend opened the door one-floor below and he was shot in the chest.

As New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams observed: "How is having your gun out with no provocation, your finger on the trigger, your safety off an accident?" He added: "At minimum, that sounds like criminal negligence."

Vertical patrolling also resulted in the shooting death of Timothy Stansbury, 19, also in a Brooklyn housing project 10 years ago. That was also ruled an "accident."


So why was it that it was a Black male, Gurley, who was killed by the cop, Peter Liang; and not his friend, Melissa Butler, a Black female?

The Black male is demonized in many circles as a congenital criminal; a dangerous being. Was it accident that it was the Black male and not the Black female that was shot dead on Thursday in the Pink Houses project?

Officer Peter Liang might have accidentally shot someone who happened not to have been a criminal; but it's difficult to believe that he was not conscious that he was firing at the male and not the female.

The killing of Gurley is unacceptable; it's just one more reason why Bratton, who has exhausted the benefit of the doubt extended to him when de Blasio appointed him police commissioner, must go.

After NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo on July 17 strangled to death an unarmed Black man, Eric Garner, using a chokehold, for allegedly selling loose cigarettes, Bratton said all the 35,000 officers on the police force would be retrained. And at the time of Garner's killing, the first version of the story the NYPD fed media was a spin-job with no mention of a chokehold and The New York Times swallowed it.

That's why the initial police version of these stories must be carefully evaluated.

And, what kind of training permits officers to patrol a dark stairway with weapons drawn -- unless it's in a building in a low-income neighborhood?

This means an officer is confident that even if he or she discharged a firearm and killed someone "accidentally" any potential fallout could be rationalized as collateral damage.

That's the price of policing such dangerous neighborhoods.

Liang might have been justified in having a drawn weapon had he and his colleague, Shaun Landau, been searching for a specific armed suspect.

This wasn't the case; so police recklessly endangered the lives of people; the two individuals who happened to encounter Officer Liang were Gurley and Butler.

Patrolling a dark stairway with a drawn weapon seems to fit in with Bratton's "broken windows" vision; it's the aggressive policing of low-income people approach advocated by a conservative think "scholar". Supposedly, not attacking poverty, but bullying low-income people with aggressive policing against minor offenses deters them from committing serious crimes later.

Broken windows condemns every low-income person; especially Black males. It pre-supposes that they are congenital criminals or have a high propensity for criminality. Therefore aggressive pre-emptive actions are warranted and justifiable; even an accidental shooting to death.

This is also the mind-set that drives stop-and-frisk.

It was no accident that Officer Liang killed the male and not the female in that encounter at the Pink Houses.



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