Thursday, May 1, 2008

No Justice, No Peace

When the "not guilty" verdict came down on Friday April 25th in the Sean Bell case, I was shocked but not really. Aquitted on all charges, I knew my black people would be tight about it, and rightfully so. I myself was saddened because yet another gross miscarriage of justice was served...on a platter.

The front page HED of Saturday's New York Times read Judge Acquits Detectives in 50-Shot Killing of Bell, and the DEK, Fatally Flawed Police Work, but Not Criminal. I didn't follow the nuances of the case on the day to day, but I knew the basics. I immediately called my Uncle Clifford. Both he and Pops were detectives. Pop with the Manhattan District Attorney's office and Uncle Cliffy most recently with the Queens D.A. I felt compelled to figure out why there is such a disparity between the men and women that are called to protect and serve and the black community. Beyond that, the 50 shots that were blasted off from the cops gun that killed Bell, left nothing to the imagination as far as "guilt" was concerned.

My Uncle said that Judge Cooperman was going to rule on the law and not emotion. So when I read part of Cooperman's decision in The NYT, "the officers responded to perceived criminal conduct; the unfortunate consequences of their conduct were tragic...Questions of carelessness and incompetence must be left to other forums..." Uncle Cliff was right, there was no emotion in the statement. Rather than calling the shooting justified, the judge said that the prosecution failed to prove it was unjustified, which was its burden. Ironically enough, the defendants decided against a trial by jury. How that choice was exercised and ultimately executed, I'm not sure... But for 50 shots to get fired, with 31 coming from Detective Michael Oliver, and for no one (Detectives Marc Cooper or Gescard Isnora) to get convicted with anything, seems a lil a lot of people.

Clearly there was an outcry. Rightfully so. What I'm trying to understand is how this could happen and seemingly delve into how it positions the police in the eyes of the public. I usually take a somewhat apathetic stance when it comes to the police. With Pop being a cop I tend to find myself falling back into a mindset like "my Pop wouldn't have handled it like that." But talking to Uncle Cliff gave me some perspective. Absolutely there are always going to be some rotten apples in any bunch, but sometimes in those split second moments, cops spazz. They are human too. They put their life on the line everyday, and not that it should be an us against them mentality, but it can go down like that unfortunately.

All that to say...I'm praying for Nicole and her kids in the same way I'm praying for those officers. Their careers are smashed as they knew it, but really I pray that in their hearts they can forgive themselves for what happened. Healing is required on all fronts to move on, and it won't be easy, but it is necessary. I look forward to the day when we fear doesn't completely rule us in our psyche. I look forward to black men not being viewed as suspicious and targets while they do their thing on the day to day. I look forward to the day when justice and peace walk hand in hand...

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