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What To Believe?

April 9, 2018

If you believed the rants on the internet and in the media, many by black writers, about the fatal police shooting of Saheed Vassell in Brooklyn last week, you might well hate the NYPD.

Here’s a sampling:

BulletFrom Anthonine Pierre, deputy director of Communities United for Police Reform: “An unmarked car pulled up in the middle of the day and officers, both in uniform and in plain clothes, jumped out and shot Saheed Vassell in cold blood. This was a hit on a member of our community.”

BulletFrom Sherrilyn Ifill, the NAACP’S Legal Defense Fund president and director-counsel: “New York City police officers shot Saheed Vassell yesterday afternoon after officers mistook an object in his hand for a gun, and fired 10 shots at the unarmed, bipolar 34-year-old. … NYPD officers have once again killed an innocent New Yorker struggling with mental health issues. … Mr. Vassell and his mental health issues were reportedly well-known to the Crown Heights community and NYPD officers.”

BulletFrom Leonard Greene, Daily News columnist: “[L]ook no further than Brooklyn, where we can now add a pipe with a knob to the list of items that shoot-first cops have mistaken for a gun. Let us not be surprised that cops could shoot to death another black man without a gun.” Referring to NYPD Chief of Department Terrence Monahan, Greene wrote: “What Monahan did not did not tell reporters, at least not yet, was the racial makeup of the officers who fired the fatal shots. … Still it boggles the mind that mass murderers like Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine people in a church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 or Nicholas Cruz, who murdered 17 people in a Florida school rampage in February, can be arrested without a scratch yet a man who pointed a pipe on a street corner is as dead as Sean Bell.”


BulletNo, the police shooting of Vassell was not an assassination. Pictures, released by the police, of the metal pipe with a tip that Vassell was holding as he pointed it at passersby showed people cowering in fear. This led to three 911 calls, including at least one from a woman who said it appeared that Vassell was pointing a gun.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialBulletIn describing the four anti-crime cops who shot Vassell, police said the four included a black officer and another of Indian descent.

BulletNeither Dylann Roof nor Nicholas Cruz was arrested at the scene, but sometime afterward. 

BulletAnd whose responsibility is it that Vassell was not on his meds? The police? The community? The doctors? His family? 

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittOn the other hand:

BulletIf your ancestors had suffered 200 years of slavery and law enforcement agencies were used to track you down if you escaped; if, after Emancipation, you were regularly arrested on false charges to be used as free prison labor; if lynchings were rarely, if ever, prosecuted; if, when you reported your bicycle stolen, you yourself would be arrested for stealing it, as a former Detroit police chief told me after the 1967 riots had been the case a generation before in the motor city; if, in New York in 1973, 10-year-old Christopher Glover was fatally shot in the back by a white cop as he fled alongside his grandfather [the cop was acquitted]; if in 1976 Robert Torsney, another white cop, executed 15-year-old Randolph Evans in Brooklyn for no apparent reason [Torsney was acquitted by reason of temporary insanity, and after a year in a psychiatric facility was pronounced no longer insane and freed]; if in 1999 the unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot 19 times by police as he stood in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building; — then, I think you might be prone to believing the rants about Vassell’s shooting.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialNEIGHBORHOOD POLICING.
No question, the concept of neighborhood policing — where cops bond with communities and which Mayor de Blasio has made the NYPD’s No. 1 priority — is a good one. The policy is facing resistance throughout the department, though. At a meeting of captains and above ranks at the Police Academy last month, police sources say the top brass was warned by an assistant chief that if they weren’t on board with the program that they should consider retiring.

At virtually every monthly news conference to discuss the city’s declining crime numbers, the mayor touts neighborhood policing as a factor in the overall crime drop.

Then comes the Brooklyn shooting of Saheed Vassell, which shows that talk is cheap.

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