The firestorm surrounding the death of an unarmed 18-year-old black man by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, resonates deeply with many New Yorkers calling for reforms in the NYPD.
“The police are just out of control — in Missouri, New York, California. It seems like they just have no accountability to anyone,” said Constance Malcolm of Williamsbridge in the Bronx.
Malcolm’s son, Ramarley Graham, was shot and killed by a narcotics detective on Feb. 2, 2012 when he was 18. She is hoping that the national outcry over Michael Brown’s death will convince the Department of Justice to open an inquiry into her son’s killing. On Aug. 20, she and others will deliver 32,000 signatures to the DOJ office in lower Manhattan asking for an investigation.
Congressman Charles Rangel — a veteran of the civil rights movement — issued a statement Thursday thanking President Barack Obama “for making certain that the Department of Justice will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether there were any violations of civil rights,” in Brown’s death.
Meanwhile, protesters rallied against the shooting death of the teen in Manhattan Thursday night, starting in Union Square and then moving uptown.
Civil rights as they pertained to police power — especially in the wake of Eric Garner dying in police custody on Staten Island on July 17 – were on the minds of many New Yorkers.
Shadée Parker, 25, a Harlem maitenance worker, said she is regularly stopped by cops for inspection of her back pack, which is filled with cleaning supplies.
She echoed many in saying she would like to see officers subjected to more rigorous background checks, more education and more rigorous training.
When cops engage in excessive force, communities become cynical and police officers experience more hostility and taunts while on patrol, said Noel Leader, a co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement. The Brown death is yet another example of “overreacting by police in communities — especially when they’re dealing with African Americans,” he said. Leader said he hoped Brown’s death would result in a more vigorous discipline, more prosecutions and convictions of officers who use excessive force. “That is what sends a message,” and leads to improvements, he said.
Frankel Fernandez, 27, a porter recently certified as a surgical technologist, wants to see not just more accountability, but training changed to de-emphasize force. “Why shoot to kill?” he asked.
Fernandez, who lives in Inwood, turned on his phone to show a video he recently filmed of a cop kicking a man who was already subdued on an uptown sidewalk. Cops who abuse the badge by abusing people “should be exposed,” and penalized, he said.
All police officers “have to stop protecting and supporting those cops that are doing wrong things,” said Kadiatou Diallo, 55, the mother of Amadou Diallo who was shot 41 times by four cops in the Bronx in 1999 when he pulled out his wallet to show them ID. Diallo, who has a foundation now named in honor of her son, hopes that the Brown case results in a special prosecutor for all police-involved shootings. “The DAs are part of the law enforcement family,” and can’t objectively prosecute such cases, she said.
Brown’s death also gives new heft to the argument that police officers should sport body-worn cameras, said Michael Malloy, 40, a messenger who lives on the Lower East Side. Something needs to happen, he said, because “the entire country is like a ticking time bomb.”
The father of Ramarley Graham, Franclot Graham, agreed. “I keep telling my friends this is a boiling pot and it’s going to boil over,” he said of excessive force used by cops to often fatal results. But, he lamented, “nothing ever happens.”