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Diallo's death set off a flurry of investigations and lawsuits uncovering so much ugliness in the NYPD that federal investigators are threatening to set up an outside monitor. Related Gully Stories:

How to Clean Up the NYPD
Six points from the NYCLU.

Cops' Murderous Fear
The fear defense in the Diallo shooting.

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

Joseph James, left, and Daniel Tasripin during a memorial vigil for police victim Amadou Diallo, New York City, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2001. Suzanne Plunkett


The Vultures and the Dead

by Kelly Cogswell

FEBRUARY 19, 2001. Almost a thousand people attended the February 4 candlelight vigil marking the second anniversary of Amadou Diallo's death. The unarmed African immigrant was shot 41 times by four white New York City police in the vestibule of the Bronx apartment building where he lived. The cops explained to the satisfaction of a jury that they were frightened into shooting him when he pulled out his wallet.

Political Hay
amadou dialloDiallo's death set off a flurry of investigations and lawsuits uncovering so much ugliness in the New York Police Department that federal investigators are threatening to set up an outside monitor. The Feds have shown that the NYPD racially profiled blacks and Hispanics, and ignored substantiated Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) cases against officers.

Even the dudes in blue are getting screwed. Courts and juries have found that the NYPD retaliated against female cops filing complaints of sexual harassment, and against a whistleblower denouncing racial profiling in the NYPD Street Crimes Unit responsible for Diallo's death. The Department also wrongfully barred uniformed members of the Latino Officers Association from marching in parades.

Every ambitious politico in the city is now hoping to turn these miseries into political hay.

Snake Oil Politics
One of the Diallo anniversary attendees was wannabee Mayor and current City Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, who has in the past blasted vigil star Al Sharpton as "irresponsible" and "divisive." Hevesi was jeered off the stage by the otherwise quiet crowd.

Another mayoral hopeful, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, also leapt into the limelight to put in his two cents about the U.S. Department of Justice's recent refusal to indict Diallo's killers for use of unreasonable force. He announced the four cops should be fired.

Even the biggest cop-lover of them all is on the justice bandwagon. You remember him, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who once rioted with police, and often blames victims for getting shot by cops. When Haitian-American Patrick Dorismond was killed a year ago, Giuliani told the press the deceased had a "propensity for violence," and backed up his claims by illegally releasing details of his juvenile police records.

Now, in the autumnal days of his mayoralty, and after a mind-altering bout with the Big C, Rudy and his new Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik, stunned New Yorkers by unveiling a proposal to allow the CCRB to actually prosecute complaints against police officers, as critics have been demanding for ages. This is a real turnaround for Rudy, who spent his first few years cutting the board's budget, packing it with lackeys, and announcing civilians had no place in police affairs.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board
Under the new plan, the currently toothless CCRB will not only investigate abuses and recommend follow up: it will actually prosecute these cases instead of handing them over to the quicksand of the NYPD. As before, however, the Police Commissioner will have the final word on punishments and settlements.

The test will be whether or not the Commissioner continues to routinely reject the Board's recommendations. Which hinges on whether the proposal is sincere, or just so much hot air intended to loft Giuliani into the governor's office in Albany in 2002.

amadou dialloGenuine or not, Rudy's U-turn pulled the rug of self-righteousness out from under aspiring mayors Hevesi and Ferrer, as well as Public Advocate Mark Green, and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, all four Democrats, who had hoped the issue would give them a quick push into Gracie Mansion this November. All they had to do was define themselves as anti-Rudy's by denouncing his defiant arrogance and racist blunders, and promise to reform the CCRB and such. Now, they have to come up with something better.

So far we've gotten nothing but mealy-mouthed generalities from the candidates, and the endorsement of Green by the popular former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, a Giuliani foe. Which means it's the perfect time for outside critics like Al Sharpton and the New York Civil Liberties Union's Norm Siegel, and inside reformers like the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement to turn the screws on the candidates and demand they offer specifics on how they will keep crime down while protecting civil rights. The clock is ticking.

Related links:

For the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (You can now file your cop brutality complain online! Its better than playing lotto!)

For a look behind the scenes at what's wrong with the NYPD and how to fix it, go to Deflecting Blame: The Dissenting Report of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's Task Force on Police/Community Relations at the NYCLU website.

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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