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The court accepted the white cops' fear as an absolute. Diallo's fear didn't matter. Related Gully Stories:

NYPD Cops: Drilling Deep
An overview of NYC police brutality.

How to Clean Up the NYPD
A 6-point plan.

NYPD: The Picture is Bleak
An interview with Norman Siegel of the NYCLU advocating federal intervention.

Cops' Murderous Fear

by Kelly Cogswell

FEBRUARY 27, 2000. On February 4, 1999 four white New York City plainclothes policemen shot and killed the unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo in the vestibule of his apartment building.

The cops' subsequent defense of the 41 bullets discharged at Diallo was simple. They claimed Diallo was behaving suspiciously, and had not obeyed their command to stop. When Diallo raised his wallet, each one of them, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy, imagined that this black man was raising a gun. Because this scared them, they shot at him. 41 times.

One year later, on February 25, 2000, this explanation was enough for an Albany, New York jury to find the four not guilty. Of anything. Because they were cops continually under pressure, and because they were afraid of this black man with his wallet raised, Diallo's death was ruled an unfortunate mistake.

dialloThe court accepted the white cops' fear as an absolute. By ignoring its knee-jerk racist component, their fear and murderous, racist reflex were placed above the law. Now, anytime someone makes a cop's heart beat too fast, or his palms get sweaty, they'll be DOA.

Diallo's fear doesn't matter. Who cares that the skinny black immigrant must have been terrified to see four burly white guys bearing down on him like thieves or murderers?

Not guilty, these four police officers are entitled now to return to their jobs, strap on their guns, and hit the streets armed with the same racism, the same fear that killed Diallo.

What can anyone do besides grieve?

Unless there is significant change in NYPD training, and accountability, the "mistakes" named Anthony Baez and Amadou Diallo are inevitable.

The New York State Attorney General Eliott Spitzer has reported that, even accounting for higher crime rates in minority neighborhoods, blacks are stopped 23 percent more often than whites, and Hispanics stopped a whopping 39 percent more often. Unfortunately, these figures are only the tip of the big blue iceberg.

The question is, how can ordinary people force the smug, intransigent leadership of the New York City Police Department, and other police departments like it throughout the country, to create the changes that will prevent these "mistakes"? And how can we hold the police accountable when they occur?

In the next weeks we'll try to find out what the experts say.

Related link:

The Capitol Region Justice For Diallo Committee

For Complete Coverage New York City

In Depth

nypd patch Police violence and brutality in NYC. Includes an overview of NYPD problems, and possible solutions.

Color and Cash
race and classThe Gully's complete coverage of race and class, two intertwined pillars of American society.

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