Saturday, December 08, 2007


UP FRONT News December 6, 2007
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”


The description of what happened to 14 year old Rayshawn Moreno of Staten Island on Halloween night evokes images of KKK type incidents in rural Mississippi in the 1958.

Two police officers from the 120th precinct, Thomas Elliassen and Richard Danese, reportedly witnessed Rayshawn throwing eggs in Mariners Harbor. According to an account in The Staten Island Advance, the cops, instead of lecturing him or perhaps even arresting him, instead handcuffed him and placed him in their vehicle. They then drove to a remote and isolated location outside the boundaries of the precinct. According to the news account, verified for me by Edward C. Josey, the President of the Staten Island Branch of the NAACP, the cops drove along South Avenue, towards Tottenville, which is located at the pretty much lily-white southern end of the Island. They drove past Lois Lane (presumably no relation to Superman's girlfriend) and then turned right on Edward Curry Avenue. They then crossed over the West Shore Expressway and turned right onto Chelsea Road and then, after a short distance, turned left onto River Road, which in that area is unlit. With Rayshawn still handcuffed in the back seat, they stopped in front of a Con Edison substation near the West Shore Rail line, an area surrounded by cattailed-filled wetlands.

There, according to the unrebutted report, Elliassen and Danese ordered Rayshawn out of the car. They removed the handcuffs, ordered the teenager to lie on the ground and poked him with their boots.

At that point, the officers received a radio call directing them to another location. They jumped in their car and drove away, leaving Rayshawn alone in the dark.

Rayshawn proceeded to run along the railroad tracks for more than a mile, pausing only to remove his white shirt and sneakers when he saw headlights. The quick-thinking Rayshawn, afraid that those headlights might be from the cops' vehicle, realized he would be easier to spot in a white shirt.

In his gym shorts and socks he arrived at the Burlington Coat Factory Mall where, with the assistance of a security guard, he called his home. Later in the evening, according to The Advance, Rayshawn led investigators to the spot on the railroad tracks where he recovered his clothes.

Elliassen and Danese, who according to Mr. Josey live together in the Great Kills area of Staten Island, have been charged with the misdemeanors of unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child.

Rayshawn is being represented by attorney Jason H. Leventhal, Jr. It is his view, one that is shared by apparently many others, that what happened to this early adolescent was a kidnapping.

Following a recent protest in front of the Supreme Court Building on Richmond Road, a short distance from the St. George terminal of the ferry, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan decided to postpone the initial Criminal Court appearance of the two officers while he considers upgrading the charges.

At a recent community meeting led by Staten Island civil rights leader Rev. Demetrius Carolina of the First Central Baptist Church in Stapleton (my home community and my church), I asked attorney Leventhal about whether the police may have also violated federal civil rights laws. He said that he has been in contact with the U.S. Justice Department but could give no more specifics.

There is little question, in the wake of the Diallo and Bell, et. al. shootings and other cases involving what can be diplomatically characterized as police excess, that the reality is that the New York Police Department, which has plenty of competent and honest officers, also has plenty of cops who are violence-prone racists who abuse the authority given them by their badges and uniform. Indeed, the usual explanation for the behavior of cops like the notorious Francis X. Livoti, who choked a man to death after a football hit the officer's car, or Justin Volpe who broomstick-sodomized Abner Louima, is that it is "just a few bad apples." I think it is orchardsful of "bad apples."

There is little question that whatever pre-employment screening is done by the NYPD has been insufficient because too many sadists, racists and camouflaged psychopaths become cops. As far as I am concerned, the New York State Legislature and the New York City Council need to pass laws that mandate vigorous pre-employment psychological testing to weed out the sickos before they get in. Indeed I once discussed that briefly with State Senator Bill Perkins (D.-Manhattan), an African-American legislator from Harlem very sensitive to the issue. While he indicated that some screening is done, he said that my idea is a good one.

Political realities what they are in New York City, with a mayor who created a mini-Guantanamo during the Republican National Convention in 2004 and who works hand in hand with "liberal"-spouting but civil rights-hostile City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who runs the Council with an iron hand, the chances of such legislation passing are dubious.

Police work is among the most stressful jobs there is. Cops must make life and death decisions. Psychologically impaired people do not belong on the police force.
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