Black Star News 2015 Resolution: Continue Fight Against Racist Policing And Courts

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To honor memory of Michael Brown and other victims protests for reforms must continue

[Speaking Truth To Power]

As 2014 comes to a close, the fight against racial policing and racism in America’s courts have become two of the primary topics of concern especially for African Americans as we move into 2015.

There are too many outrages—like we witnessed in Ferguson, MO.,  and Staten Island, N.Y.—happening all over America.

Los Angeles is now dealing with the case of an unarmed Black man who was apparently shot in the back; the police had offered misleading information and now activists are calling for criminal indictments.

The movement against racial policing and a racist legal system that mass incarcerates Black and Brown people, or denies them due process as with Michael Brown's and Eric Garner's cases, must continue—and be accelerated, in 2015.

In the coming year, those of us who care about equal justice must have “zero tolerance” for corrupt politicians, prosecutors and police who hide behind and use their badges, titles, offices and other “legal” machinations to abuse power—especially, against African Americans. All of these political and legal entities must be put on notice that the people are going to be “on the move.”

The legal outrages that occurred in Ferguson and Staten Island were seen by many and made it crystal clear America’s criminal “justice” system corrupts that very concept whenever a police officer violates the rights of citizens and pays no punishment for doing so—especially, if those citizens are Black.

Now the protests have become as multi-racial and multi-ethnic as they've ever been in recent history.

We should not pretend the problem is just one of a “few bad apples” on the police force. The larger problem exists with those who write racist police policy such as "broken windows"—and those who orchestrate massive injustice in America’s courts, usually, at the expense of Black or Latino people.

2014 has forced many in America, often uncomfortably, to face the issue of racial policing and police brutality and extrajudicial executions. This year we saw many incidents that speak to the need for fundamental reform and restructuring of police, especially in Black communities. Moreover, this year, we also saw several disturbing stories where some police and prosecutors procured tainted testimony to obtain convictions that have been discovered and overturned.

But while we protest police prejudice and murder, we must not forget the part prosecutors like Bob McCulloch and Dan Donovan played in these miscarriages of justice, in Ferguson and on Staten Island, respectively. And let’s remember this: often times, the same prosecutors who convene sham grand juries to allow killer-cops to walk free are also the same ones sending away legions of Black men to prison.

Ferguson and Staten Island are not anomalies. Every day, “legal” outrages are occurring against the most vulnerable in the population, especially African-Americans; people who can't afford vigorous private legal representation. America’s court system has been effectively used to subvert the potential of Black America—by incarcerating a multitude of Black men, and, lately, more and more Black women.

Therefore, within that context, we must not be surprised by the miscarriages of justice represented by Ferguson and Staten Island. In the latter case, even with clear video evidence of the strangling of Eric Garner by Daniel Pantaleo, the sham grand jury gave the killer-cop a pass.

Ironically, Ferguson and Staten Island have overshadowed, in media coverage, other stories that speak to the pernicious nature of America’s justice system, with respect to Black people. For instance, here in New York, we now know of at least two retired officers, Sergeant Michael Race and Detective Louis Scarcella who railroaded—God knows how many—innocent Black men into prison using compromised lone “eyewitnesses.”

Some 50 of Detective Scarcella’s cases are being reviewed by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. The reviews are an apparent consequence of the overturned conviction of David Ranta—a White man wrongly convicted for the Feb. 8, 1990 killing of Brooklyn Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger. Ranta spent 23 years in prison.

Earlier this year, Mr. Thompson's investigation of Detective Scarcella’s cases found damning notes showing Scarcella withheld vital exculpatory evidence leading to the murder conviction of two African-American men: Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin. Both men, who are brothers, were convicted for the Sep. 10, 1985 killing of 34-year-old Ronnie Durant on Park Place, in Crown Heights.

The case of Jennette and Austin also have an eerie similarity to another case where Detective Scarcella’s tactics helped to secure convictions against Rosean Hargrave and John Bunn for the killing of corrections Officer Rolando Neischer, in Crown Heights.

In both of these cases—and several others—Detective Scarcella used the same lone “eyewitness” to convict these four men. That “eyewitness” may well have been coerced by Scarcella—since she was a known prostitute and crack addict.

Detective Scarcella’s actions are now under the microscope. However, it seems pretty implausible no one knew at the time that Scarcella was abusing his power. Didn’t any police in his precinct have a problem with the way he did his job?

More importantly, didn’t anyone in the District Attorney’s office—of now discredited D.A. Charles Hynes—think something was wrong when Detective Scarcella repeatedly used this same compromised “eyewitness” in so many murder cases? Didn’t they find it implausible that one person would witness so many murders?

The real truth is these prosecutors don’t care once they can secure convictions and fulfill their political ambitions. And, especially if those convicted are Black, Latino and poor, who cares? These cases prove that the system is not about true justice; it’s about numbers and money. Those with money can twist “justice” accordingly—but those who have none will, probably, become part of the statistics of incarceration.

Detective Scarcella isn’t the only NYPD officer we know of who has used despicable methods to convict innocent people—like suppressing documents and using the “lone eyewitness” strategy. Enter former NYPD Sergeant Michael Race—who worked out of East New York’s 75 Precinct. Sergeant Race, like Detective Scarella, used a compromised lone “eyewitness” to testify against Black suspects. Two of those men are Everton Wagstaffe and Reginald Connor, convicted of killing Jennifer Negron in East New York on Jan. 1, 1992.

An appellate court found that “Given the lack of any other evidence tying the defendants to the crime, the credibility of Capella [the so-called “eyewitness”] and the investigating detectives was of primary importance in this case, so that the burying of the subject documents by the prosecution” prejudiced the defendants.

Cases such as these can be found all across America. Unfortunately, police and prosecutors who engage in these types of actions always seem to escape punishment. Moreover, why is it that the prosecutors who, certainly, knowingly, taint these cases to obtain convictions face no type of legal scrutiny—much less legal jeopardy?

Mr. McCulloch and Mr. Donovan are walking around with no fear of being investigated for their nefarious actions in manipulating the outcomes to benefit their police buddies. We should ask this: who is going to police the police—and these amoral prosecutors?

The truth is only we the people can reign in these corrupt charlatans. The establishment politicians alone cannot be trusted to implement the change we need, without a massive push coming from the masses. We must continue to march, protest, make phone calls, send e-mails etc. We must make it unbearable for these racist police officials and phony politicians—Black politicians in particular—who sell us out so they can further their selfish personal ambitions regardless of how many lives are destroyed in the process.

For the coming year, politicians who want our votes and support must outline their plan for tackling racial policing, racial mass incarceration and the economic racism crippling Black America. It must be impressed upon them that not following thru on their promises will lead to dire consequences for their political careers.

In 2015, African Americans, Latinos, other ethnic minorities, and Whites of conscience, must accelerate the fight against those forces who find it expedient to criminalize Black people.

Police brutality and murder must be attacked relentlessly with sensible reforms so we can save future generations from the tentacles of a “law and order” system that not so secretly functions as a continuing arm of Black oppression. 

 

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