Problems with NYPD begin with City Hall

An explosive week that saw the killings of Dallas police officers following the police killings of black men has shaken the country.

Alon Sterling was selling CDs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when he was pinned on the floor by two cops and shot multiple times. Not 24 hours later, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a cop near St. Paul, Minnesota, after reportedly being pulled over for a broken taillight. Audio recordings suggest the cop profiled Castile because of a “wide-set nose.” Video of Sterling’s death and livestreamed footage of Castile’s lifeless body reignited protests across the country.

Amateur video again shone a light on the too often brutal reality of the policing of black America.

To say we have a race problem would be an understatement. Locally, our elected leaders seem to be in denial at what’s happening here at home.

Delrawn Small was fatally shot by an off-duty NYPD cop in the early hours of July Fourth as his family watched. The initial police version of events predictably conflicted with eyewitness accounts. Police told local media that Small walked out of his car during a bout of road rage and punched NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs, a three-year veteran. The NYPD secured video evidence but refused to release it. Sources said local businesses with surveillance cameras had all their equipment confiscated after the incident.

The NYPD sat on the video with good reason: with America in uproar over Sterling and Castile’s deaths, video published Friday afternoon (the news dump time) showed Small hadn’t thrown a punch. Small’s girlfriend, two daughters and baby were in the car as he died in the street. America was celebrated with barbecues and fireworks a few hours later.

Armed with the nation’s largest police force, New York City has a unique role to play in the national discourse. Sunday marks two years since Eric Garner died in Staten Island at the hands of NYPD police for the high crime of allegedly (witnesses have said Garner was breaking up a fight at the time) selling untaxed cigarettes. Undercover cop Daniel Pantaleo remains on the force as Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio refuse to fire him. They, along with the City Council, added 1,297 extra cops to the department and have clung to the controversial broken-windows theory of policing, a strategy that overwhelmingly targets poor people of color, like Garner.

De Blasio has pointed to the NYPD as a model for the nation. He’s dead wrong. Bratton has espoused similar rhetoric for which former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is now being criticized. New York is powder keg and city hall is sticking its fingers in its ears.

Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.