FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

NYPD’s War On Blacks

by Michael Lewtin

The whole city of New York deserves “enlightenment” about the NYPD exoneration of Officer Craig Yokemick, who fatally fractured Kenneth Banks’s skull by throwing a police radio at his head in October 1998.

Unfortunately, the department’s failure to take even minimal disciplinary action against Yokemick in this case reflects the Giuliani administration’s street-level war on young men of color.

As in the cases of Amadou Daillo (1999) and Patrick Dorismond (2000), Mr. Banks was a black man whose life was taken without justification by the NYPD. The 5’5″-tall Banks was unarmed and posed no threat to the 6’6″ Yokemick. As with attempts to defuse criticism by assassinating the characters of Diallo and Dorismond, police sought to justify Bank’s death by demonizing him as a drug dealer-an allegation disputed by civilian witnesses-with a criminal record. Indeed, rather than obtaining emergency medical attention for his severe injuries, police cuffed and jailed the unconscious Banks, whom they charged with misdemeanor drug possession.

As in the Diallo and Dorismond cases, New York City’s criminal justice system has proved unwilling to punish the officer responsible for Banks’s death. Every day, Legal Aid attorneys relearn the old maxim that prosecutors can indict even a ham sandwich. Here, however, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office endorsed the grand jury’s decision not to indict Yokemick on the grounds that “the level of force was appropriate under the circumstances in order to apprehend Mr. Banks.” Then-Police Commissioner Howard Safir would comment only that “the criminal justice system has spoken.”

To top it off, the NYPD’s Department Advocate was unable to obtain even a 10-day suspension in Yokemick’s recent disciplinary hearing. It wasn’t the first time the department had gone easy on Yokemick; he was still on the force at the time of Banks’s death despite previous findings of excessive force, assault, and discourtesy.

This pattern of abuse is the predictable consequence of the Street Crime Unit (Diallo), Operation Condor (Dorismond), and department-wide “quality of life” arrest quotas systematically aimed at young black and Latino men-usually for nonviolent and/or petty offenses.

As a high-ranking NYPD narcotics commander recently explained, “[c]ops are flooding the system with minor stuff just for the overtime.” (N.Y. Daily News, December 22, 2000). As a result, “Manhattan has more residents in state prison than any other county in the state . . . A whopping 105 out of every 10,000 Manhattan residents are in state prison” (N.Y. Post, Feb. 4, 2001).

These policies, in turn, feed the state’s insatiable “war on drugs,” whose Rockefeller Drug Laws have boosted the number of state prison inmates to 70,000-21,000 of them incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses.

The Giuliani administration insulates police misconduct generated by these policies through staunch resistance to effective police oversight.

According to both the NYCLU and the city Department of Investigation, the CCRB is, at best, ineffective. The Mayor has adamantly opposed Federal oversight of the NYPD, and recently defended his refusal to cooperate with Federal investigation of the Street Crime Unit on the grounds that “they (Federal prosecutors) have to stop harassing the Police Department.”

By pursuing such search-and-destroy policies, the administration bears ultimate responsibility for taking the lives of people like Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond and Kenneth Banks.

MICHAEL LETWIN is President Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325

More articles by:
January 18, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Destabilizer: Trump’s Escalating Threats Against Iran
John W. Whitehead
Silence Is Betrayal: Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up for Your Rights
Andrew Day
Of “Shitholes” and Liberals
Dave Lindorff
Rep. Gabbard Speaks Truth to Power About the Real Reason Korea Has Nukes
Barbara G. Ellis
The Workplace War: Hatpins Might Be in Style Again for Women
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Sickness in May’s Britain
Ralph Nader
Twitter Rock Star Obama’s Silence Must Delight Trump
John G. Russell
#Loose Lips (Should) Sink … Presidencies … But Even If They Could, What Comes Next?
David Macaray
The “Mongrelization” of the White Race
Ramzy Baroud
In Words and Deeds: The Genesis of Israeli Violence
January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail