Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Racial Bias by the Boys in Blue?

When I read about cops like NYPD officer Juan Nunez (pictured left) being busted for joining 3 other men in beating a 52 year-old homeless black man with their fists and a bat in front of a deli on Long Island while yelling racial epithets at him, it bothers me on a number of levels.

It doesn't make think that every one of the thousands of NYPD officers is a racist, but it does make me aware that many of them harbor internalized bias against people because of the color of their skin, and that's a big problem in New York City.

Forget that those charged with enforcing the law are held to a higher standard, or that officer Nunez should have been the one helping someone who was being attacked, not taking part as a group of men are beating one man.

Is he able to enforce the law objectively without bias when he obviously harbors bias against African-Americans?

According to an article in the New York Daily News, Freeport, Long Island resident Officer Nunez was at the deli at 8am when a black homeless man named Daryl Jackson tried to use the pay phone outside and was asked to leave by the property owners.

Not all the facts are clear but three members of the deli owner's family, Jose Miguel Vargas, 35, of Freeport, and Bronx residents Persio Vargas, 53 and Kelvin Vargas,24 along with Nunez, surrounded Jackson and confronted him and began beating him after some kind of scuffle ensued - no doubt all FOUR men will testify that Jackson threw the first punch.

What's sad is that this kind of hostile attitude is a by-product of the Rudy Giuliani era New York when violence against the homeless and African-Americans by members of the NYPD skyrocketed after "America's Mayor" declared war on the homeless in the city including the infamous "Squeegee Men".

No one is going to argue that it wasn't annoying when homeless guys with dirty rag would begin washing the windows of drivers stuck in traffic then aggressively demand money for it; but no one deserves to be beaten up or physically assaulted for pan handling - especially by the police.

Just today, the New York Times reported that the City of New York agreed to pay $1.15 million to settle a law suit that accused two NYPD detectives, Patrick J. Brosnan and James Crowe, both former body guards for Mayor Rudy Giuliani, of execution-style killings of two robbery suspects in the Bronx.

In 1995 Anthony Rosario, 18, was hit by 14 bullets, 6 of them hit him in the back. His cousin Hilton Vega, 21 was struck with eight shots, 1 in the head, 1 in his butt, 1 in his arm and 5 in the back. This was 4 years before the murder of Amadou Diallo, an innocent man of color shot 41 times.

If officer Nunez, himself Puerto Rican, treated a homeless black man this way when he was off duty, how is he going treat a black suspect he encounters when he has his gun and badge?

Is it realistic to assume that someone like officer Nunez can just "turn off" the bias he has against people of color when he's on duty? Why are the NYPD allowed to routinely use excessive physical force against African-American males, even when they are innocent and unarmed?

Remember Sean Bell?

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