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The police

police-brutalityThe police are those who are charged with protecting citizens from crime. They can arrest those suspected of breaking the law and put them in jail. They carry out court decisions. They are allowed to use violence, even deadly force, to keep the peace and preserve public safety. They maintain law and order.

That is one view. From living in New York I have come to have another view: They serve and protect the rich from the poor and whites from blacks and Latinos. They care little for black lives, even middle-class ones. They are a law unto themselves, cover up for each other and even get away with murder. Judges believe their lies,  newspapers tend to take their side and the powers that be turn a blind eye.

Nearly 90% of the people that New York policemen shoot at are black or Latino. It has little to do with blacks and Latinos somehow being more dangerous: 77% of the time the police are the only ones doing any shooting!

Blacks in New York are ten times more likely to be stopped by the police than whites. It has little to do with crime: only 10% of the stops lead to an arrest or summons. Nearly half of blacks are searched for weapons when stopped while fewer than a third of whites are – even though white suspects are 70% more likely to have a weapon.

I used to live in a part of New York with a high crime rate: hundreds were shot dead every year, black and Latino. You could hear the gunfire. Then one night I saw something I will never forget: policemen along the north side of the street that served as the colour line, one every few blocks. They were guarding the quiet white and Asian neighbourhoods behind them. If blacks kill each other, who cares, so long as white people are safe.

So when white people tell me of all the crime that black people do compared to whites, which they always say like it proves something profound, I just want to roll my eyes. If their neighbourhoods were as ill-served and ill-protected by the police as black neighbourhoods are then over time they would have terrible crime rates too.

Most black men have been stopped by the police for no good reason. Obama too. And even those who have never been stopped (yet) have heard enough stories to know how racist the police can be.

The reason things like O.J. Simpson and Henry Louis Gates, Jr become such heated issues in America is because whites and blacks view the police so differently. Because their experience of them is so different.

Most whites seem to have a childlike trust in the police that is naive and unfunny. It is hard for most blacks to feel the same way. So when a Sean Bell or Oscar Grant, unarmed black men, are killed by the police it is not seen as a “mistake” but something far worse.

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missingRomona Moore (c. 1982-2003) was a student at Hunter College who lived on Remsen Avenue in Canarsie in Brooklyn, New York. One night she left to go to Burger King  and never came back.

On her way there, a few blocks from her house,  a man pulled her off the street and took her down to his basement where he and his friend beat her up and raped her.  Repeatedly. They took off her clothes and put her in chains. They sodomized her and tried to saw off her hands and feet. They beat her face with a hammer, they cut the webbing between her fingers. This went on for four days.

They checked the news: no word of her missing. They were upset.

They kept her under a big piece of plastic. One day when a friend dropped by they said, “Say hi, bitch,” and pulled back the plastic to show her. Their friend talked to her. Afterwards he went to a baby shower and then drove back home to Maryland. He never told the police.

She became too “feisty” so they beat her to death and put her in a crate. They found another woman and started on her.

When she did not return from Burger King her mother worried. The next morning she called the police. They said, “She’s 21. We’re not supposed to take the report.” But they did anyway and told her to call that night.

She did, but they said, “”Lady, why are you calling here? Your daughter is 21. These officers should not have taken the report in the first place.” They closed the case the next morning.

aronovJust two months before Svetlana Aronov, age 44, a rich white woman on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the wife of a doctor, took her dog for a walk and never came back. The next day the police called a press conference and put 24 detectives on it full-time. They went door to door and passed out flyers. They looked through her telephone and bank records, they looked at surveillance tapes of nearby buildings. And so on. They even hired a psychic and a bloodhound. They later found Aronov’s body in the East River.

Moore’s mother, getting no help from the police, called the press. They were not interested either. She made flyers and passed them out. The police would not help her till the fourth day, the day her daughter died: she had called a politician to get on their case.

The detective assigned to the case sometimes would not return calls for days. After spending less time on it than the police had spent looking for that rich white woman’s dog, he gave up.

The next day, the day before Mother’s Day, her body was found – not by the police – under an old ice cream truck just a few blocks from her house.

Her mother is suing the New York police for racism. They say it is a hard thing to prove in court.

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