PUBLISHED : SAT, 23 AUG 2014, 04:53 PM
UPDATED : SAT, 23 AUG 2014, 08:35 PM
Politicians down-play calls for NYPD reform
NYPD Commish Bratton is responsible for the heavy-handed Broken Windows policing that harasses low-income and minority communities, claiming the life of Eric Garner
As thousands of New Yorkers were collecting in Staten Island for a massive civil rights march seeking justice for Eric Garner, the Staten Island man choked to death by NYPD, Mayor Bill de Blasio was in a Brooklyn church, desperately spinning support for his controversial NYPD Commissioner William Bratton and the police department's Broken Windows approach to policing.
As the city and the nation reflect on police brutality, Mayor de Blasio reaffirmed his support for NYPD Commissioner William Bratton and the administration's contentious Broken Windows approach to policing, which many police reform advocates blame as the cause of Mr. Garner's murder while in police custody. Mayor de Blasio and other elected officials are deliberately down-playing the harsh police tactics that target people of color and low income communities. In New York, this state-sponsored race- and class-based approach to policing is known as Broken Windows.
At the Eric Garner march in Staten Island, two elected officials, who some said attended in Mayor de Blasio's stead, former Gov. David Paterson and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, both lowered the benchmarks for justice to the same political operative talking point : a successful prosecution of officers responsible for Mr. Garner's murder. To his credit, Rep. Jeffries did mention the role of Broken Windows policing, but there was no political pressure overtly exerted on Mayor de Blasio to end the policing approach, nor was there a call for the mayor to fire Commissioner Bratton in favor of a culturally competent replacement.
The mayor asks the city to place faith in due process, but the NYPD has routinely violated due process, and prosecutors do their own part to keep watering down due process
Mayor de Blasio did his own part to downsize community expectations, telling congregants at the Brooklyn Adventist church, "We all believe in due process, fairness, a full investigation, a full legal process. We believe everyone should be treated equally in that process."
Mr. Garner was choked to death by police on July 17. Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan has promised to schedule a grand jury to investigate possible charges against NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, who had placed Mr. Garner in an illegal chokehold that killed Mr. Garner. However, the date of the grand jury's empaneling has yet to be announced.
Mr. Garner's death has escalated public scrutiny on race- and class-based police brutality after Michael Brown was shot to death by Ferguson P.D. officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. In contrast to the prosecutorial investigation of Mr. Garner's death, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch initiated on August 29 a grand jury investigation of Mr. Brown death, but that was due to immense public pressure and a violent police crackdown on civil unrest following Mr. Brown's murder.
In both cases, civil rights activists have criticised the role of local prosecutors to investigate brutality and murder by police officers. Police departments are notoriously politicised by mayors, and local prosecutors are publicly-elected officials, meaning that local prosecutors are encumbered by political consultants and local lobbyist insiders, who are often shared by other local officials, especially mayors, other prosecutors, and even some locally-elected judges. What is more, local prosecutors' rates of conviction depend on nonaggression relationships with police officers in order to successfully prosecute cases at trial. If local prosecutors go up against police departments, that conflict may potentially upset local prosecutors' other criminal cases. Consequently, critics of the local prosecutors have, in turn, requested that federal prosecutors lead the charge to investigate the murders of Mr. Garner and Mr. Brown. The political conflicts facing local prosecutors are known to federal prosecutors, who are regularly forced to intervene in controversial prosecution cases when cases consist of violations that involve significant political or government individuals, which pose problems for the local prosecutor, as high-profile prosecutions of police officers can be deemed.
Since policing tactics have focused on minor infractions and low-level crimes, like selling loose, untaxed cigarettes for 50 cents, like has been charged that Mr. Garner engaged in on the day he was murdered, and for walking on the street, as was the reason Mr. Brown was stopped by police on the day he was murdered, the judicial system has become over-run by complex cases that may have escalated from what are generally regarded as underlying nuisance charges. Public defenders, local prosecutors, and the court system rush through these cases, giving people of color and low-income defendants short shrift in the justice system, resulting in an inherent state-sponsored structure that criminalizes people based on race and income. It is this broken system in which Mayor de Blasio wants the community to place their faith.
de Blasio gives lip service to NYPD's role of 'protect and respect,' but the mayor keeps expressing support for his culturally incompetent police commissioner and race- and class-based policing
Critics of Mayor de Blasio have been asking for the resignation of NYPD Commissioner Bratton, an end to the Broken Windows approach to policing, and for a federal investigation into corruption at the NYPD and its Internal Affairs Bureau. However, the mayor and his teams of political operatives have thus far succeeded in limiting the community's conversation of Mr. Garner's murder in terms of improving police-community relations, a tactic that eventually failed former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after Abner Louima was brutalized by police officers in a bathroom at a Brooklyn police station. Advocates for campaign finance reform believe that Mayor de Blasio is continuing the Giuliani-Bloomberg crackdown on the poor and people of color as political payback to real estate developers, which are amongst the mayor's biggest campaign contributors and which desire the mass displacement caused by Broken Windows to support further, uncontrolled upward spiraling of real estate prices. Indeed, during the mayor's successful campaign, he very publicly aligned himself with corrupt real estate lobbyists. One real estate lobbyist, James Capalino, served as an organizer last year for a problematic $1 million fundraiser at the Waldorf-Astoria for Mayor de Blasio's campaign committee. Once elected, Mayor de Blasio has established a close working relationship with William Rudin, the corrupt boss of Rudin Management Company, the developer of the $1 billion luxury condo conversion of St. Vincent's Hospital. More and more, the minority community and activists are coming to terms with how Mayor de Blasio exploited race implications of policing controversies just to get elected, leading one political blogger, Suzannah B. Troy, to predict that Mayor de Blasio may only be a one-term mayor. Adding to the urgency for NYPD reform is the work of the activist group, New Yorkers Against Bratton and other activists, who will not give up until there is an overhaul of the NYPD and many of the root and systemic causes of discrimination and brutality are fully addressed.
As a result of delays and other problems with the broken judicial system, police become jaded and corrupt after serving in the force for a year or two, some political bloggers assert. Pressures to achieve justice outside of the dysfunctional court system and political manipulation of crime statistics converge to act to influence police officers to self-appoint themselves as judge and executioner each time police confront citizens, some critics of police claim. The militarization of police departments adds to the perverse concentration of resources to make arrests of minor infractions and very low-level crimes, but these resources do nothing to improve the socio-economic conditions of the communities being targeted for these "broken windows" crimes. As all of this injustice plays out for minority and low-income communities, large-scale political and corporate corruption go unprosecuted, and federal agencies, such as the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice, continue to erode civil liberties and other Constitutional protections, further reaffirming the impression that each of the justice system is stacked against both people of color and the poor and due process no longer means anything. The politicisation of the Department of Justice by President Barack Obama further erodes some activists' faith in federal prosecutors' ability to investigate police departments that have been weaponized by the Department of Defense and the N.S.A.
Against these stark realities, the only failed solution Mayor de Blasio is offering is to cosmetically improve "police-community relations."