Some NYPD See Black Neighborhoods As Enemy 'Combat Zones'

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[Brooklyn: Op-ED]

Mayor Bloomberg And Commissioner Kelly Act Blind


With the death of Kimani Gray, as we sit here in the aftermath of another senseless tragedy we ask ourselves: why?

Why, once again, did one of our youth have to end up murdered for being in “the wrong place at the wrong time?” Why did the police feel it was necessary to shoot when it appears that there was no gunfire directed at them? Why does a teenage boy have such fear of the police in his own neighborhood that hanging out with friends turns into a fatal police chase/shooting, in a matter of seconds?

Kimani Gray was reportedly killed by 11 shots fired by NYPD with 7 of the shots hitting his body and 3 of them hitting his back, even though he never fired a weapon. Community witnesses state that Kimani begged for his life.  Even if they thought he was going try to use a weapon against them—which has been questioned by many credible accounts—why wasn’t there a warning? Why didn’t the shooting stop after it was clear he was no longer a supposed threat? Why?

In order to answer these questions, we first have to look at what is going on in the NYPD. For far too long, a culture has been tolerated where our communities are treated like enemy combat zones by undercover detectives, looking for guns and drugs.

This culture has been so well documented in books, films, court decisions and several other places, that its existence is barely debatable at this point. Yet in New York—supposedly the most metropolitan major city in the world—Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly refuse to acknowledge the problems this creates.

Ordinary people are stopped and frisked and get their rights trampled on because some officers live in a fantasy world where they view themselves as conquerors in a dangerous urban jungle. The community’s frustration leads to mistrust of the police and as a result many crimes go uninvestigated and unsolved due to this dynamic. In a seemingly ritual fashion we see the lives of women, men and children cut short with families left to fill the void of the murders of their loved ones in circumstances that, in many cases, were avoidable. These circumstances came about because of racially biased thinking and racial profiling that are enabled by an unjust stop-and-frisk program along with the continued police murder of our people.

This is why copwatch patrols are needed, not only to document and prevent misconduct and abuse but to affirm that the community’s rights are valid and can be maintained, even in this flawed legal system. For over 10 years, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM’s) New York chapter has been conducting Copwatch patrols in our community in the Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights neighborhoods.

During these patrols, we often see the behavior of officers shift when they are caught during a stop-and-frisk, sometimes resulting in their immediate departure and the release of a community member. Copwatch is one piece of the solution as we develop methods to combat these attacks.

If you live in New York and you want to be trained for Copwatch please contact [email protected]  so we can follow up with you. A few hours out of your month can make a big difference.

Over the past week, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement supported the community in their outcry and frustration at the Kimani Gray vigils and marches, and at the 71st Precinct in Brooklyn by way of Copwatch. We stand in solidarity with the families of all those harassed, physically and sexually assaulted, and killed by the NYPD.

We demand that District Attorney Charles Hynes drop all charges for any individual arrested in connection with the protest for Kimani Gray.

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