NYPD: Wilding In Blue

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I suppose I should be grateful I wasn't shot 41 times. My close call came last Saturday night while my wife and I were driving through a middle-class, Black neighborhood in Queens.

We had spent most of the day caring for my mother who had recently been released from the hospital following heart surgery. As we started heading for home, our van was the only automobile traveling down a quiet, dimly-lit, tree-lined street with detached homes on both sides. So, you can imagine our alarm when, suddenly, an unmarked sedan with emergency lights swirling under its roof appeared seemingly from nowhere and proceeded to tailgate us as if it was ready to ram us in the rear.

At first, I instinctively sped up for safety's sake, just trying to get some distance between the two bumpers. But the maniac only increased his pace. We quickly weighed our options, logically debating what to do next. Should we pull over and let him pass? Could it be some sort of official personnel? In our town, the only people with these types of flashing lights were volunteer firefighters. However, they never appeared mysteriously or drove so recklessly. Plus, as far as we knew, New York City has no such volunteers. What if these were muggers trying to trick us into stopping? We'd certainly heard about enough police impersonation incidents on the news lately to be alarmed about that possibility.

So, we continued on for several blocks until we reached an open, commercial area where someone could at least hear our screams for help, if we were assaulted. We pulled over, praying the other auto would just pass. Unfortunately, it parked, too;  lo and behold, out of the vehicle emerged a couple of white police officers with arrogant intimidating attitudes. When the realization hit me that, no, these were not carjackers, and that, yes, these were NYPD detectives, the strangest of feelings swept over me. The only way I can describe it is as a combination of relief and rage.

One cop came to my door and shined what seemed like a 1000-watt flashlight in my face and all around the van, undoubtedly looking for contraband or an excuse to arrest us. Finding none, he then demanded to see my license, registration and proof of insurance. The other storm trooper ordered my wife to roll down her window in an arrogant, condescending tone of voice. When I politely asked why I had been stopped, I was gruffly informed by the goon that this was a "Zero Tolerance" night. What the heck does that mean, I thought? No tolerance of anybody traveling while Black? That used to be called racial profiling. I certainly knew that no similar scenario was unfolding in white communities around the city.

Whites don't have to endure dehumanizing humiliation from plain-clothed Black detectives employing Gestapo-like tactics during department-sponsored re-enactments of Kristallnacht. But in predominantly minority enclaves beefy white bullies are encouraged to cruise around, intimidating law-abiding citizens and trampling their Constitutional rights for breaking a selectively-enforced curfew. This is ostensibly Mayor Bloomberg's version of "Giuliani Time!"

After sitting for about 10 minutes, while waiting for a computer to verify that I wasn’t a criminal, the disappointed cops came back and handed me a $90 ticket telling me I had supposedly run a STOP sign. Bull substance. If I had, it was only after they had scared the bejesus out of me. But I didn't argue, not wanting to trigger a steroid-induced rage which might cause the situation to escalate from a shakedown to major mayhem or worse. As we drove home in silence, I fumed, first thinking about whether I ought to fight the ticket on principle, or if I should consider myself lucky not to end-up a statistic like Amadou Diallo, an equally-innocent brother whose own brush with overzealous officers ended in a hail of bullets.

Unless white cops can prove themselves capable of treating African Americans with respect as a matter of course rather than with contempt, I say it is Black people who ought to be enforcing a Zero Tolerance policy. How can we afford to have our communities patrolled by trigger-happy cowboys who treat us like a guilty till proven innocent species of sub-humans undeserving of Bill of Rights protections? Zig heil!

Black Star News columnist Kam Lloyd Williams, Jr. is a member of the NJ, NY, CT, PA, MA & US Supreme Court bars. For more reports please subscribe to the newsstand edition of the newspaper by sending your check to The Black Star News, 234 5th Avenue, 5th Floor, N.Y., N.Y., 10001. Annual subscription: New York, $45; outside New York, $55; international, $75.

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