There are some excellent articles I’ve come across this weekend about police misconduct. I haven’t had time to post about each individually so I’ve highlighted what I believe are must-read stories. 

Police lie….a lot

Michelle Alexander, author of the best-selling book “The New Jim Crow“,  has a must-read piece at the New York Times titled “Why Police Lie Under Oath“. She talks about how the criminal justice system, courtesy of the drug war, incentivizes lying. “In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so,” argues Alexander.

As a follow-up, I highly recommend Nick Malinowski’s latest piece at Vice called “Testilying: Cops Are Liars Who Get Away with Perjury“.

Ramarley Graham 

Speaking of police abuse of power, yesterday marked one-year since 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was shot and killed by police officer Richard Haste of the NYPD. Graham was unarmed when he was chased down and shot in the bathroom of his home by an NYPD narcotics unit, an incident police tried to cover up.

Graham’s family and their supporters marked his death by marching to the precinct where his killer was assigned to demand justice.

My friend Ryan Devereaux (who’s a kick ass journalist) reports that Graham’s family has filed a lawsuit against the NYPD for “improperly training its officers, disproportionately targeting minority youth through its controversial stop and frisk practices and covering up the facts surrounding the death.” Among the defendants are Haste and New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly, as well as other officers who were involved.

According to the suit police threatened to kill Ramarley’s unarmed grandmother, 58-year-old Patricia Hartley, after they shot her grandson dead in the presence of her and Ramarley’s 6-year-old brother.

“Why did you shoot him, why you killed him?” Hartley cried out after Haste fired, the suit claims. “Get the fuck away before I have to shoot you, too,” Haste is said to have replied as he shoved Graham’s 85-pound grandmother into a vase, the suit alleges.

According to the suit, NYPD officers twisted Hartley’s arm before taking her into custody for nearly seven hours where she was questioned, accused of covering up for her grandson and denied access to her attorney for over an hour and a half.

“They were calling her a ‘fucking liar’,” Jeffrey Emdin, an attorney for the family told the Guardian. Emdin believes the grandmother was isolated to intimidate her. “It’s my assumption that they were trying to rattle Ms Hartley into saying that her story couldn’t be true,” he said.

At one point during Hartley’s questioning, a police officer allegedly dunked his fingers into a glass of water then splashed the liquid against a wall. “They were demonstrating how blood splatters after someone is shot,” Emdin said.

According to the lawsuit, the police also showed Hartley a photo of a man who had been shot and claimed it was Graham. Once released, Hartley was “totally exhausted, totally traumatized”, Emdin said, adding that she sought treatment for trauma in a hospital.

Haste faces first and second degree manslaughter charges, making him the “first serving NYPD officer to face criminal charges for a fatal shooting since 2006,” says Devereaux, which brings me to another article.

The NYPD killed 21 people last year

New York Amsterdam News reports that the NYPD killed 21 people in 2012, coming out to nearly two killings a month. Here is some background on the NYPD’s track record as well as the complete list of names and ages of the deceased:

Overall, 224 lives have been taken by the NYPD since an unarmed Amadou Diallo was killed in a fusillade in his Bronx building’s vestibule during the first hour of Feb. 4, 1999.

The same stats show that nearly 90 percent of those killed were Black or Hispanic. Activists are demanding accountability for the rampant casualties.

Many police killings receive little mention in the media; therefore, the topic usually goes unnoticed by the general public until an incident hits home or a major tragedy occurs—like the one on the night of Nov. 26, 2006, when a car in a bar’s parking lot in Jamaica, Queens, was blasted by 50 bullets, instantly killing groom-to-be Sean Bell and seriously wounding Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman.

The three undercover cops involved were also acquitted, but eventually fired from the force in 2012.

“They kill so many young people,” said Juanita Young, whose son, Malcolm Ferguson, was slain by Bronx cop Louis Rivera in 2000. “They’re killing the next generation.”

Last year’s victims of police shootings varied in age: Antwoine White, 17, was killed in Bushwick, Brooklyn, on Jan. 29; and Ramarley Graham, 18, was slain in his own Bronx bathroom just four days later. On Aug. 24, Jeffrey Johnson, 58, was shot dead by the NYPD outside the Empire State Building after killing a former co-worker he had a grudge against.

“They don’t discriminate,” adds Young, “because they kill males and females.”

Shereese Francis’ supporters say the NYPD used excessive force, causing her to suffocate in the basement of her Queens’ home by pressing her face into a mattress while handcuffing her. Then on June 14, Shantel Davis was shot in a vehicle in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

“There was no weapon involved, and the information that I have does not seem to suggest that this woman was in any way a threat to the police to warrant the use of deadly force,” determined state Assemblyman Nick Perry shortly after the shooting. “How can they go home and hug their kids and say they love them when they took somebody else’s child?”

Weekly vigils for Shantel Davis continue each Monday at 7 p.m. at Cupcake It Up, 3910 Church Ave., between East 39th and 40th streets.

On Saturday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m., supporters will meet at 749 E. 229th St. in the Bronx to mark the one-year anniversary of Ramarley Graham’s slaying by NYPD cop Richard Haste.

The NYPD did not respond to the AmNews’ inquiries.

Below is a list of the victims.

  1. January 12th Duane Brown, 26, Brooklyn (killed in own home)
  2. January 26 Christopher Kissane, 22, Brooklyn
  3. January 29th Antwoin White, 17, Brooklyn
  4. February 2nd Ramarley Graham, 18, Bronx
  5. February 14th Michael McBride, 52, Manhattan
  6. March 15th Shereese Francis, 30, Queens
  7. April 12th Tamon Robinson, 27, Brooklyn
  8. April 12th Rudolph Wyatt, 23, Manhattan
  9. May 10th Samuel Rivers, 40, Queens
  10. June 14th Shantel Davis, 23, Brooklyn
  11. July 4th Edgar Owens, 46, Queens
  12. Aug 11 Eddie Fernandez, 28, Bronx
  13. August 12th Darius H. Kennedy, 51 Manhattan
  14. Aug 24 Jeffrey Johnson, 58, Manhattan
  15. Sept 7th Reynaldo Cuevas, 20, Bronx (shot escaping robbery)
  16. Sept 7 Walwyn Jackson, 27, Queens
  17. Sept 20 Tyjuan Hill, 22, Queens
  18. Sept 25 Muhammad Bah, 28, Manhattan
  19. Oct 5 Noel Polanco, 22, Queens
  20. Oct 25 Prince James 18, Bronx
  21. November 4 Ronald Herrera, 20, Bronx

These names were read aloud by a women holding back tears at yesterday’s church service for Ramarley Graham, which was captured on film (video below). It’s both heartbreaking and infuriating: