Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

Nor does the fault lie with the protestors, activists demanding justice for dead minorities who didn’t have to die had police used their training before their guns, how dare we blame the mothers of dead black, brown, sometimes mentally ill, developmentally delayed teens whose bodies lay in the streets for hours, critical minutes that could have saved a life lost as parents fought behind police tape to get to their wounded child, aguish that demands action. Neither does the blame land on any of the people daring to stand up and say what needs to be said about the mentality, mindset and perspective of police and police training today, to say nothing of the effect, dead persons of color dying on suspicion of petty crime, placed in chokeholds for laughable demonstrations labeled resisting arrest, more people shot to death while minding their own business, perusing store aisles with items, including pellet guns, they intend to purchase, cases of mistaken identity, mistaking mundane objects for weapons, more children opened fire upon for toy guns played with in a park. This isn’t Mayor De Blasio’s fault, yet we denigrate him for acknowledging these realities, for having the courage to be honest that people aren’t without reason to be angry, aren’t without reason to take to the streets or feel the justice system has failed them. Who better to comment, who better to stand up and try to calm tensions, post the Eric Garner grand jury decision, where he made the statements he’s now being flayed for, than not only the mayor, but the mayor who has a biracial son whom he has had to have many of the same conversations with over the years as every other mother and father raising a child of color about taking extra care when interacting with police. Who better to know what it’s really like on our streets today whether you’re in New York, New Mexico, New Orleans; who better to recount their personal experience? Not once condemning good, solid police work, the men and women on his own police force, those across the country putting their lives on the line daily to keep the public safe; instead, pointing to the obvious bad apples making every officers job harder and saying that’s what must change, commiserating with community members looking at a justice system who saw the video depicting what happened to Eric Garner, who like jurors heard the restraint used violated department policy partially resulting in a person’s death, which should thus constitute a crime, then hear the words no indictment. Commiserating with people who say black lives matter, or more apt, black lives matter too not above Caucasian lives, police lives, regular, ordinary citizens lives somehow under that of petty accused criminals lives, rather in addition to all the other lives out there today, going about their business, making choices, raising families, holding jobs. The idea everyone is someone’s father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, everyone potentially has family who will miss and morn them, even if you are black, even if you are a minority, even if your ethnicity comprises a small part of the neighborhood, city or state in which you live.

No the fault lies in prosecutors both in New York, Ferguson Missouri and elsewhere nationwide stacking their grand juries with people who won’t indict, putting forth confusing cases, instructions, legal statutes and testimonies favoring the very people they are there to bring to justice, to bring to trial allowing a final rendering on guilt or innocence. Remembering indictment doesn’t mean a verdict automatically determining guilt, precluding innocence only a decision to let a jury of one’s peers hear all the evidence and come to a decision. Further, prosecutorial staff who have retained their jobs in the devastating aftermath comprising these controversial rulings, when you have prosecutors reportedly using out of date legalese to get their desired outcome, polar opposite what it should be, in Ferguson staff who couldn’t, perhaps wouldn’t answer juror questions on par with a basic law class, if federal law overrode state law; the truth, a simple yes. And if this is a play by liberal media to side, sympathize with people of color behaving badly, embodying all the stereotypes they’ve been given then whiningly crying foul, why is there a Ferguson juror suing for a lift of the imposed gag order, fighting for the legal right to speak out, to open their mouth saying exactly the same thing? Why was the outcome identical in De Blasio’s very own New York when you have video detailing exactly what happened between police and Eric Garner, the most feeble example of resisting arrest in the history of resisting arrest that leaves a man dead from a department banned hold, yet that doesn’t merit trial by jury, judgment by a selected group of peers elected to the task? If that’s true, if that’s the current state of affairs, where we stand judicially it appears they have every right to call for change, call for their procedural demands be met; those demands involving removing the grand jury system in investigating police officers, potential misconduct in officer involved shootings, appointing both special prosecutors and investigators to ensure impartial, fair, collection and review of evidence.  Of course what happened to officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, their ambush assassination in broad daylight for no other reason than to do it, was tragic, wrong, serving simply to feed justification for current attitudes; no one who chooses to protect and serve should be gunned down solely for choosing that career, that calling, without cause, without wrongdoing.  Of course we must keep in mind some people, bent on doing harm, bent on getting revenge are going to use instances like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, legitimate cases where there was a glaring miscarriage of justice, as an excuse to perpetrate violence, just like looters and vandals invaded valid protests, a different trouble maker found its way into the Occupy Wall Street movement. A tragedy immediately condemned by the families of both Michael Brown and Eric Garner forcefully telling new media, viewers, possible protestors not to use their sons’ names to incite, commit violence. Violence hardly stemming from just the mayor’s speech to calm citizens in the wake of the no indictment for Daniel Pantaleo, violence whose origin isn’t distilled to “letting protesters have free reign,” even those chanting they want- dead cops; we have freedom of speech in America no matter how inconvenient. Freedom of speech that says absent a direct threat, absent yelling fire or bomb in a crowded place, when their isn’t one, parameters for defamation of character, slander, you can say what you want, when you want, where you want no matter how offensive to unpopular. We possess freedom of assembly, the freedom to peacefully, march, protest, appear in an area in an organized fashion, no matter how much of a headache it creates for city logistics. This violence sprang from years living under systematic injustice, enduring systematic harassment all under the guise of justice served, all under the eyes of the rest of the nation apparently content with the way things are, quick to blame minorities injured or dead at police hands on ghetto, thug mentalities, blacks, Mexicans who refuse to follow police instruction, who do profoundly stupid things unprepared for the consequences ultimately possible death, youths who should have been taught better than to commit petty crime, wave even toy guns around, who, above all else should, independent of circumstance, keep their hands to themselves and respect their elders. Elders classified anyone older than they are who deigns to tell them what to do, and if they don’t, well they deserve what they get; if what they get is death, it’s one more hood rat, thug, gang banger bad guy off the streets, prevented from harming the rest of us. Here are the excuses generated by citizenry nationwide for the repeated pattern of death first think later especially if the person you are dealing with is something other than white; Mayor De Blasio saying this too has to change.


Yes police fatalities have risen sharply during the last year; however, many, like the one in Florida slaying an officer adjacent to the New York City attacks, happen in the line of duty, while on a call, responding to a complaint, in the process of arresting someone, giving a ticket, arguably the most dangerous time for a cop. Setting police all over America on edge, the clearly unprovoked nature of the recent attacks, police targeted simply for being police, for being in public, being in uniform, but are they as unprovoked as officials characterize them? Despite 3 incidents transpiring over a single weekend in Florida, L.A. and the most devastating in New York, protests have gone on for weeks since the Eric Garner decision was announced, some protests turning violent, crowds growing ever larger, drawing people in from smaller parts of the country. How soon we forget Trayvon Martin was from Florida, died there galvanizing an undercurrent of anti-police sentiment, when his killer too walked free claiming the dead 17 year old started a fight where he feared for his life; L.A. saw its own incident right around the time Michael Brown was making headlines from Missouri outward. His name was Ezell Ford known, loved and protected by his south L.A. neighborhood, spawning similar protests, similar allegations and no small amount of correlations to Brown, stopped by police for suspicious movements, shot by police when he reportedly went for an officer’s gun, they struggled, at one point rolling on the ground where the gun went off. Autopsy results released just before someone took shots at two L.A. officers in their patrol car; autopsy results seeming to confirm many local conclusions events happened differently than officers’ accounts. Most damming one of 3 shots hitting Ford was firstly in the back and secondly held evidence of a muzzle burn indicating very close range, appearing to substantiate eye witness testimony stating police approached Ford guns drawn, he put his hands up, they wrestled him to the ground, 2 shots went off seconds apart, an officer directing another to shoot him again where he received the infamous shot to the back, having no chance to fight back or resist owing to 2 big cops on top of a tall but skinny man  We know from the social media post of the accused New York shooter it was about Michael Brown and Eric Garner combined with the shooters own twisted thoughts; L.A. couldn’t have possibly been, in part, about Ezell Ford, about information revealed in his now publicized autopsy report, oh no, it couldn’t be that, sure. L.A. that has become a powder keg before, the Rodney King riots anyone; far from random. 20 odd years ago they rioted for the same thing, equal treatment, justice under the law; 20 years later it seems nothing has changed.  Ezell Ford who according to family had a developmental delay; perpetrators of this kind of violence are also known to possess varying degrees of mental health issues too. Ismaaiyl Brinsley was said by his family, even taking into account his lengthy history with the criminal justice system, to have had some sort of mental disturbance, to say nothing of the concept to do something like what he did you have to be some sort of disturbed to begin with. And maybe if, during any of his encounters with judges, public defenders, jail houses he had received help as opposed to being warehoused for a period of time, we also wouldn’t be here burying two police officers, 2 families torn apart; the navy yard shooter, Aaron Alexis was also a person of color, was a textbook case of psychosis missed by all the people who should have seen it, critical information not reaching those who needed it, we know what happened next there too. Then there are the latest developments in the police shooting death of 12 year old Tamir Rice shot in a park playing with a pellet gun when someone called 911 fearing the gun might be real, not only does video show police rolling up on this preteen and firing 2 seconds after they come into view countering claims they told him to put his hands up, not only is he misidentified in scene dispatch recordings as possibly 20, not only is it uncovered the officer who fired those shots has an abysmal record with his former department, especially gun handling and personal stress management to the point of a recommendation he be fired, not only did he get hired because his current department in Cleveland Ohio has no standard policy to check prior personnel records. But extended surveillance video corroborates family testimony, as if we had any reason to doubt their story, young Tamir’s sister tried to aid her brother only to be tackled by police, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car; though the video doesn’t include sound you can easily guess she was probably screaming words along the lines of my brother, my brother my brother. And instead of trying to confirm her statements, they hauled her away, logic, reason and prior action solidifying the mother’s account alleging they almost did the same to her. Subsequently clearly confirmed by new footage, how long it took for aid to come to Tamir the 4 minutes he lay shot on the ground while officers milled about talking to each other; video released just after the deaths of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Yet another source of simmering tensions between police and citizens broadcast to the nation, ultimately fueling what happened.




Still openly turning your back to the mayor’s speech at a funeral for the fallen, blaming De Blasio won’t solve the larger problem, does nothing to change perceptions that caused these ambush assassinations in the first place. It doesn’t explain attacks becoming a national phenomenon; yes officer fatalities have sky rocketed over the year, but so have the number of excessive force incidents of which Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford and Tamir Rice are simply the latest 4 in a bloody summer turned to a bloody fall consisting of police brutality, borderline thuggery perpetrated by people trained and charged with upholding the law no using their badge, authority to break it. Beyond causing the, turned out to be needless, death of 5 people there was the Wal-Mart shooting death of John Crawford III gun down by police after an inaccurate 911 call said he was shooting at people and reloading as the caller spoke; what he had was an unloaded pellet gun, available for purchase right there in store, able to be taken from store shelves he carried through the store as he shopped, never threatening anyone. All happening in an open carry state where even the presence of a gun should not have ended in the death of a suspect that way; who could forget Marlene Pinnock savagely beaten on the side of a California freeway by an officer who wrote in his report he was taking her into custody for her own safety due to her walking too close to the freeway. When she “resists” the officers “help,” she is tackled to the ground, repeatedly punched in the face and head; drivers capturing it all on cellphone video stopping to find out what in the world was going on. A lesser known case causing people to genuinely fear police is Kametra Barbour in Forney Texas who was subjected to a terrifying felony arrest procedure with her 4 children, oldest age 10, in the car when police mistook her burgundy Nissan for their vehicle of interest, a tan Toyoda housing supposedly 4 males waving a gun. Officers who forced her to walk backwards towards them, away from her increasingly frightened children, refusing to tell her what it was all about until she reached them then giving a halfhearted apology when they finally conclude Ms. Barbour isn’t remotely what they are looking for, video courtesy of the officers’ own dash cam. Another dash cam horror for the police hall of shame, the South Carolina trooper who opened fire on a man he stopped as he pulled into a gas station, later discovered to be for a seatbelt violation, when the man ducked back into his car to retrieve his license as requested; public debate and the officer’s attorney claiming there is more than one way to interpret the video, the man’s actions might be perceived as aggressive since most keep their license, I.D. in their wallet or pocket; except the man having, to his knowledge, done nothing wrong, not being a criminal, compliant with instructions, remaining calm until shots were fired had no reason to think the cop would find him aggressive. Contrastingly different here, thankfully the man lived, shot in the hip, the cop was almost immediately fired from his police department and is up on charges for aggravated assault, wheel of justice moving swiftly. Yet it’s inconceivable to fellow members of the public that Eric Garner and subsequent minority persons feel harassed by police, going a long way to explaining his confrontational response, especially if they did this to him every other time he dared walk in the street, when in all these cases except the last no legal consequences were brought to bear against the officers?  Laying the deaths of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu at mayor De Blasio’s feet, on his conscience makes little sense recalling, much to the anger of law enforcement and the relief of residents, De Blasio disbanded the alarming stop, question and frisk policy, ran for the office on that very concept and won by popular vote of the people, actions that should have made police jobs easier, citizens feeling less oppressed. Disappointingly it doesn’t take stop and frisk to force the question it’s suddenly ok for people to forfeit their rights has human beings to do what police tell them to, as Kametra Barbour demonstrates? Further to be clear, the only condemnation coming for De Blasio is for officers who behave like Darren Wilson, Daniel Pantaleo, “brutal, corrupt, racist incompetent;” unless that describes you, your police work then you have nothing to fear from the mayor or anyone else in charge.



Whether you blame De Blasio, similar style leadership, media portrayal of police or escalating unruly citizens who suddenly believe they do not have to obey police when stopped, when questioned, given directions, it doesn’t explain how and why it took this long for police to take such protective precautions in a year of horrible public relations for cops, controversial incidents involving police and dead citizens, judicial rulings regarding those shootings mired in abnormalities and doubt. It places entirely too much pressure and responsibility on mayor’s, city leaders, De Blasio, or someone else occupying the job across the country, when there are police commissioners other authority figures who should be capable of reading the clear signs police departments nationwide were in potential trouble. Police commissioners nationwide should have put precautions in pace to keep personnel safe and if their bosses weren’t doing it officers should have been in their supervisors ears putting forth the suggestion in whatever way they could.  Departments throughout the country should have been on heightened alert when the Michael Brown protests left Missouri all the way back in late summer; L.A. police departments had to know the release of Ezell Ford’s autopsy results would escalate already existing, heated protests, possibly incite violence, especially knowing its contents. Why pray tell weren’t they properly prepared; adding to the silly, ridiculousness of both blaming New York City’s mayor and that this happened with relative ease, only after 2 officer deaths were they instructed not to go on patrol alone, not to wear their uniform unless on duty and other basic safety standards which would go a long way to saving lives every day not just in the wake of a crisis, independent of current public climate. It’s almost identical to the nearly rhetorical question asked about the Ferguson protests turned exceedingly violent, what did you expect; extreme public reaction to such high profile cases isn’t new, retaliation against police is not a novel idea. We had 2 high profile cases receiving no indictment for officers directly implicated in the death of 2 likewise unarmed people, protests gaining numbers daily spreading out to more cities, more locations holding so called “die ins,” the death of a 12 year old kid for playing with a pellet gun added to a string of lower profile excessive force complaints revealing people harassed, brutalized and traumatized by police for going about their lives; the actions of Ismaaiyl Brinsley could be seen from miles away as an eventuality considering people keep hearing story after story involving cops going too far. Why was any police precinct, particularly in a city as large as New York City, virtually caught with their pants down; a city again where the mayor is but one authority figure charge with the safety of city employees? That factor alone contributed to the deaths of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu far more than any words to come from the mayor’s mouth or anyone else’s, far more than the actions of one mad man bent on something only he understands in his head. De Blasio in his speech on the Garner decision did mention the police commissioner and a cleaning house of sorts removing officers exhibiting the negatives detailed at the end of the previous paragraph; too bad he didn’t do that before Eric Garner lost his life, too bad they weren’t keeping a continuous eye on it, 3 lives might have been saved. Since Daniel Pantaleo already had 2 excessive force complaints against him, one, if true constituting a form of sexual assault, wouldn’t have remained employed with New York City police. Similarly had Cleveland officials done the appropriate checking of prior employment records they never would have hired the officer who shot Tamir Rice; the wrong kind of ironic considering private employers scrutinize everything from your credit score, social media postings, walking gate condition of teeth, what amateur psycho analysis says about your handwriting, any and all results disqualifying you for a job in retail, marketing, even fast food and still things that should disqualify people from the highly important job of protecting the public, don’t?

Sadly the unfortunate truth is now police and their families begin to understand the thrill of fear going through every minority, person of color, youth, to older citizen, mothers, fathers, especially sons, males across all age brackets as they go about their business sometimes encountering police. They begin to comprehend the dilemma facing every parent raising a child of color, a minority young person torn between age appropriate independence, allowing them to walk to a convenience store alone and the inherent fear that if they do, their child might not come back. An inherent fear caused less by the random violence, drugs, gangs plaguing our lager metropolitan cities and more by the people sworn to protect it; they scratch the surface of enlightenment on the devastating context behind parents saying they are, must train their kids on how to react when encountering police. Certainly parents should advise them on that along with the many things parents teach as their child grows from crossing the street, to ordering food at a counter, going through a grocery line, but they should not have to have rules for their kids clothing, no hoodies, no dark colors, no sagging pants based on making sure they don’t end up with their corps vividly displayed on the local evening news mistaken for a thug, gang banger, petty criminal shot by police to prevent this “black male body is something to fear” violence that hasn’t happened yet, wasn’t going to happen because you actually shot citizen X not criminal X. Except police know what they are signing up for, are trained, are given to the knowledge they are going, at least sometimes, up against bad guys who do really bad things, understand they could be injured or die and make that choice; families of police officers understand, at some level what their loved one does, the reality they may not come back and  choose to marry them anyway, choose to start a family anyway, and when the unthinkable happens morn them from the standpoint of this was always a possibility. Contrastingly citizens yes are continuingly aware of the perceptions regarding their city, neighborhood, their color, ethnicity or gender, but increasingly find themselves burying loved ones no amount of precautions could have prevented, John Crawford III; I said in my own piece speaking of the Tamir Rice incident it could have happened with a bright purple laser gun complete with all the bells as whistles from the latest monster movie, TV show. Ordinary people falling victim to the crazed paranoia of fellow citizens or the sharply skewed perceptions of cops, where thought I saw a gun, suspicious movements and “resisting arrest are reasons to kill someone, to take a realistic chance of killing someone. No, it doesn’t, this is what protestors mean when they say black lives matter, something at least Mayor De Blasio understands.