The announcement of the indictment of the six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray by Maryland State Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby has shown us that the tenets of justice can work. During the press conference, Mosby explained that she filed charges against the officers based on the autopsy and evidence of her “Independent Investigation” gathered after Gray’s death.
What is most unique and unusual from an elected official Mosby’s promise to deliver on behalf of the people of Baltimore.
“To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace,’” Mosby said Friday. “Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man. To those that are angry or hurt or have their own experience of injustice, I urge you to channel your energy peacefully.”
In New York, our elected officials have been playing political Hollywood shuffle when it comes to proper oversight and accountability of the Law Enforcement or brining indictments of police officers in deaths of black men.
A Daily News investigation found that at least 179 people were killed by on-duty NYPD officers over the past 15 years. Just three of the deaths have led to an indictment in state court. In another case, a judge threw out the indictment on technical grounds and it was not reinstated.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson shocked the New York political circle when he announced that he would bring felony charges against NYPD Officer Peter Liang. Thompson said Liang did not intend to kill Akai Gurley while patrolling a darkened stairwell in the Louis H. Pink Houses on November 20, 2014 but, that he failed to follow proper protocols before and after the shooting. In a statement on DA Thompson website, he is opposed to any independent investigator or prosecutor.
“Moreover, acts of police brutality are not only crimes against the individual victim, but also are attacks on the communities in which they occur. Therefore, local prosecutors who are elected to enforce the laws in those communities should not be robbed of their ability to faithfully and fairly do so in cases where police officers shoot, kill or injure someone unjustly. The people of Brooklyn have voted for their District Attorney to keep them safe from all crimes, including those of police brutality. The Attorney General’s proposal would override their choice – and that should not happen.”
Unfortunately, DA Ken Thompson is a rare species of bringing charges against police when it comes to District Attorneys in the State of New York.
Daniel Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney and who recently was elected to Congress, also felt there is no need of any Special Prosecutor, but failed to secure an indictment in the Eric Garner case when a NYPD officer is on video using what is alleged as a illegal departmental chokehold and the medical examiner labeled the death of Garner a homicide.
Homicide is the manner of death issued by the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner of Ron Singleton, a 45 year old father of 3, who was killed by Police on July 13, 2014 in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral where he lay face down and handcuffed behind his back with 8 to 10 NYPD Officers on top of him.
According to the family’s attorney, Bonita Zelman, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance has refused to release the autopsy report to the decedents next of kin. DA Cyrus Vance is also accused of directing the Chief Medical Examinar of New York County not to release the autopsy report to the family and has refused to identify the names of the police officers who where involved in the incident with Mr. Singleton.
In Westchester County, black men can be shot, shot at or killed and never an indictment, instead the District Attorney has his behind the curtain of the Grand Jury. In the killing pf Kenneth Chamberlain, Difiore said the police officers using the word “Nigger” was a tactic to distract and never considered it to be a “Hate Crime”.
2 police officers only received 8 weeks & 6 months worth of weekends in jail for lying on search warrants that lead to one man, Jamar Smythe, who served four years in jail, over 20 vacated sentences and a questionable death of Dario Tena. The Westchester District Attorney Janet Difiore has yet to have a formal investigation in the death or Mr. Tena, who died in the custody of the lying officers.
In Governor Cuomo’s history, even as states Attorney General, he has never intervened as an independent body or brought any indictments of police officers as States Attorney General. Even at the request of victims families, law enforcement reform groups, Criminal Justice experts and many New York taxpayers, the demand for a Independent Special Prosecutor has fallen on death ears of the state legislator.
Unfortunately, even when municipalities do recognize the need for transparency, the call has fallen to death ears by Governor Cuomo and our State Legislators. A letter, dated May 29 and signed by the entire City Council of Newburgh N.Y., came at the response to the death of Michael Lembhard, a 22-year-old killed in 2012, during a confrontation with police.
The council’s letter claims a close working relationship between police and prosecutors undermines the credibility of the district attorney’s investigation.
“It does not matter that the DA’s office does an outstanding job of investigation; the results will not be trusted. By definition the relationship causes a conflict of interest,” the letter said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo denied the council’s request for a special prosecutor.
NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has stated that his office can play the role as an independent investigator and prosecutor. As a national organization of Law Enforcement Professionals we have a problem with his offering.
AG Schneiderman is in his second term; he and his office have remained silent in the many shootings of black and brown men and women under his watch. The Attorney General office has had several high-profile cases that were national news, before the Eric Garner case, many with requests for Independent Investigators from families of victims of Police Criminality.
If AG Schneiderman is sincere in his offering he should open up all cases of incidents of questionable police actions and shootings that have already happened under his watch as Attorney General. If not, his offer is just political symbolism without any substance.
Maryland State Attorney Mosby took a proactive stance for the tenets of justice and launch an “Independent” investigation and came to the conclusion to indict the officers. This action, though it’s a first step for justice for the family of Freddie Gray. What is does show that the tenets of justice can work when you put people before politics.
Our system of government is based on checks and balances; each possessing the power to curtail the activities of the other. Elected officials must ensure those who represent the interest of protecting the people, do so in accordance within the law and not abuse the authority they have been granted. If our local District Attorney’s and our state Attorney is incapable of unwilling to properly investigate police crimes in New York then it is necessary for our State legislators to create proper oversight legislation to help positively influence behavior patterns in a law enforcement organization and build a better relationship with the communities that law enforcement claims to serve.
Should Black people truly start considering not voting for these elected officials when you can’t even get true social justice? Are black lives not important enough to New York State politicians to pass comprehensive legislation of police oversight?