When an incident of questionable police shootings and police brutality happens in the communities we serve, as Black Law Enforcement; we either know the victim, we are aware someone who knows them or the victim is a family member. Blacks in Law Enforcement of America believes that there is a systemic pattern of bias that exists in the institution of law enforcement. Without proper oversight and accountability, the integrity of those good officers that do their jobs is forever tarnished no matter what color they are.
As a national organization of Black Law Enforcement Professionals, we agree with the reported statements of NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill stated that “We failed” 66-year-old schizophrenic Deborah Danner”, who was killed in her bedroom with a bat in her hand.
According to reports, this was not the first time that police was called to Ms. Danner’s home, who is also said to suffer from a mental illness. It is also reported that Ms. Danner swung a bat and Seargent Barry fired two shots killing Ms. Danner. Several other officers were at the scene, but none of them, except Sergeant Barry, were in the bedroom where the shooting took place.
According to the New York Times, NYPD has just started training rank and file officers in Crisis Intervention Training. Our of the 36,000 officers only 4,400 have received the training. Sergeant Barry did not go through the training course.
As a national organization of Law Enforcement, Professionals, We question why any officer, especially a Seargent was sent to respond to a known mentally ill person without the proper training to deal with the situation. Why didn’t Seargent Barry make a management decision to call and wait for officers that were properly trained to deal with the situation? We also question the physical aptitude of having several officers on the scene and they cannot subdue a 66-year-old woman with a bat without killing her.
According to the Daily News, Seargent Barry has been sued twice for assaulting four people. The most recent case was in 2014. We question why was this Seargent even allowed to respond to calls with a history of excessive force?
Historically, there is a pattern of a lack of accountability when an officer has cost the city taxpayers in incidents of abuse of power is still on the street. The result will eventually be a loss of life. Our elected officials and police management have failed to keep officers that have a history of violating people rights off the street and to address safeguards to prevent these incidences from recurring, especially in communities of color.
For the NYPD Commissioner to realized that the death of Deborah Danner should not have happened, he is correct. To the reports Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) saying that O’Neill’s comment eroded his reputation as a “cop’s cop,” they are wrong!
The first step in Presidents Obama’s 21st Century Policing is Legitimacy, Transparency, and Accountability. For the Commissioner to recognize and admit to a problem and look to change it in policy, procedure, and training is accountability that the people are seeking to accept.
For the PBA and the SBA to attack a Commissioner when he recognizes a pressing need for change in policing the mentally ill shows that in many cases, Police Unions are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem.