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Friday, April 25, 2008

Time to Get Off the Carousel, Brothers! Not Guilty Verdict in Sean Bell Case!

Well if you haven't heard by now, the police officers that were on trial for the fatal shooting of Sean Bell (in addition to injuring Bell's compatriots) were acquitted of all charges today. For the record, my condolences go out to the Bell family for the untimely death of their son. Because of my oft-mentioned stance on some of the police brutality cases that adversely affect people of color, I have been mischaracterized as someone that doesn't believe in police malfeasance. Of course there are cases where there is clear racial animus involved, but we must also admit that issues of discernment and credibility should be applied in order to determine what ultimately transpires in these matters. So I was in support of the officers in this tragic incident. And as the title of this entry suggests, some in the African American and Latin communities must start to get off the "carousel" of stereotypical and cyclical behavior. In simpler terms, young men of color in said communities must begin to re-evaluate the belief that we are absolute victims who insist on disregarding how one's character plays a role when these case are adjudicated.

Again, this does not mean that someone deserves to get shot but when an individual employs "gun talk" in public (within earshot of criminals and/or police) one could expect trouble or misinterpretation at the very least. And low and behold, when the smoke clears (literally) no gun is found-but a life is ruined nonetheless. But what occurs when non-compliance and street bravado are put into the mix? One suggestion-in addition to the expensive dubs that some young men like to put on their vehicles, perhaps this device should be considered. Although I would like to think that I would not get caught in a similar circumstance to that of Mr. Bell, you can bet that I will be purchasing personal video surveillance for my new vehicle. Check out the specifics on this verdict, courtesy of Newsday:

Disappointment in Jamaica after Sean Bell verdict

On Liverpool Street, as the noontime hour approached and word of the officers' acquittals spread on Friday, anger was directed toward the Police Department.

"This was a travesty. This tells black males that our lives are devalued," said Antoine Johnson, 43, of Jamaica. "It tells NYPD that you have a license to kill black males."

Johnson, who said he had known Sean Bell and also was acquainted with shooting victims Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, called Justice Arthur Cooperman's decision "racist."

He described the message sent to the black community in these words: "If you are white, you are right. If you are black, stay back."

"The court is not going to help us," Johnson said.

Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman found that the state's case was riddled with problems and that the prosecutors had failed to defeat the cops' claim that they fired in self-defense on Liverpool Street the night of Nov. 25, 2006. The 50-shot barrage killed Bell and wounded two of his friends.

"The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that each defendant was not justified" in using deadly force, Cooperman said.

After the verdict, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said "there are no winners in a trial like this."

"An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father, and a mother and a father lost their son," the mayor said. "No verdict could ever end the grief that those who knew and loved Sean Bell suffer."

Throughout the morning, more and more people stopped at a small, makeshift memorial on Liverpool Street, between 94th and 95th avenues and near the Long Island Rail Road's Jamaica station. That is where the early-morning shooting occurred after Bell and his two friends left the nearby Kalua Cabaret, the strip club where the bridegroom Bell's bachelor party was held.

Howard Brown, 40, of Jamaica, on Friday stopped his car on Liverpool Street to drop some money into a water jug, donations to the Bell family.

"There wasn't no justice with that verdict to me," Brown said. "There should have been some kind of justice for real."

Another man got out of his car, walked to the memorial and left a baseball signed with the words, "To Sean Bell Rest in Peace."

The man, who said he works for the NYPD as a school safety officer and declined to give his name, said he identifies strongly with Sean Bell.

The man said he is 26, newly married and the father of two young children. Bell, 23, had two daughters with his fiance and was a standout on his high school baseball team.

"I probably played against him," he said of Bell. "I wanted to leave the baseball there because I know that's something that he loved."

But enough of my proselytizing, what do you guys think? Was this a fair verdict? Can there be police procedural problems and procedural issues with the conduct of some of our young men of color? And lastly, should a person's criminal history (in the case of the victims-drug and gun pasts) be considered for issues of discernment? What does the class think?

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