Adilka Pimentel, Organizer/Researcher, Bushwick, Brooklyn
The deaths of Eric Garner and Ramarley Graham in New York, Mike Brown in Ferguson, and so many others across the country highlight that police brutality and the hyper-aggressive policing targeted at communities of color continue throughout our city and nation. Both issues are systemic, long-term problems that are but one example of how far we must still go to reach genuine equality. They must be addressed at their roots. Anthony Baez, Noel Polanco, and Reynaldo Cuevas are just a few of the unarmed New Yorkers of color who have been unjustly killed by NYPD officers in the past few years.
In those cases, officers were not held accountable by the local criminal justice system. That’s a major element of what allows the abusive violence to continue –there’s no accountability for officers who brutalize New Yorkers. They are held to a different standard of justice than everyone else. Officers involved in brutality are often simply moved within the department, keeping their taxpayer-funded salary and pension, gun and badge, and the ability to continue brutalizing others. Neither the problem nor solution is inadequate training of officers. The new training that is always promised after these unjust tragedies does not prevent the next case of brutality from occurring.
Race is a core factor, not just a coincidence that ties together all of these incidents. It’s not that every officer personally holds racist views, but an institutional bias that allows Black and Latino communities to be policed far different than white ones. Year after year, it is not our white neighbors who are placed in chokeholds that have been outlawed for over 20 years, or shot and killed when unarmed. It is our Latino and Black communities that constantly face this use of excessive, deadly force by the police. The problem is the lack of accountability and the discriminatory “broken windows” style of policing that targets communities of color. Why is it only a crime to ride a bike on the sidewalk in the South Bronx or Bushwick, but not in Riverdale or Park Slope?
A Daily News and NYCLU analysis revealed that the NYPD’s discriminatory broken windows policing targets Latino and black New Yorkers six times more than white New Yorkers. This is the same problem we experienced with stop-and-frisk abuses, and in reality stop-and-frisk was an outgrowth from this “broken windows” style of policing.
Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton must enact a policy of zero tolerance for police brutality and make it clear to officers that this behavior will not be tolerated. They also must end their discriminatory “broken windows” policy that targets and criminalizes our communities. As the focus of the recent march on Staten Island, these are critical to moving us forward rather than backward and truly addressing inequality and improving police-community relations in our city.