Saturday, May 03, 2008

THE SEAN BELL VERDICT. "HEALING" AND ACTION IN BROOKLYN AND STATEN ISLAND.ADDRESSING THE FRANCIS X. LIVOTI/MICHAEL OLIVER SYNDROME.

UP FRONT News April 30, 2008
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."
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THE SEAN BELL VERDICT. "HEALING" AND ACTION IN BROOKLYN AND STATEN ISLAND. ADDRESSING THE FRANCIS X. LIVOTI/MICHAEL OLIVER SYNDROME.
IT'S TIME TO WEED OUT THE "BAD APPLES" BEFORE THEY GET IN.
By Tom Weiss

Although I was perhaps the only Staten Islander at the very well attended Town Hall meeting on April 29 at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn, I felt comfortable at an event that focused on obtaining justice for the victims and the prevention of further such incidents of police shootings.

U.S. Congressional candidate Kevin Powell established an inclusionist atmosphere in his remarks when he noted that, while he was there, he had received some text messages expressing anger at the presence of "white people" in the room. While Mr. Powell emphasized the obvious, i.e. that the victims of police shootings are usually black, the solution will involve the cooperative efforts of all people regardless of race, ethnicity or faith.

City Councilmember Leticia James (D.-Bklyn.) criticized Judge Arthur J. Cooperman's verdict acquitting officers Marc Cooper, Gescard F. Isnora, and Michael Oliver, stating that the judge ignored testimony indicating that the officers did not identify themselves as such before opening fire.

Among the most relevant speeches was delivered by attorney Kamau Franklin, who emphasized the reality that in the New York City of various mayors, certainly including Michael Bloomberg, the NYPD regularly acts in violation of the U.S. Constitution. He provided some practical advice on how citizens should respond to being stopped by the police and what to do and not to do if arrested.

Brown Memorial Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Clinton Miller emphasized both healing and action at an event that also featured a choir song about "giants" that reminded us that "the harder they come, the harder they fall."

During the Q&A, which was handled very small "d" democratically (a practice not always followed at "progressive" events), I had the chance to make the following point, in particular Councilmember James. It is my view that, as long as there are no City, State, and federal laws mandating comprehensive mental health psychological pre-screening of all police applicants, the NYPD will continue to employ some psychopaths and racists. There is no question that there are many police officers (I know some) who seek to become cops because of a socially responsible desire to protect the innocent from criminals. Simultaneously there is no question that there are people who are attracted to police work because it provides a legitimized and paid outlet for their racism and other hatreds. People like the first acquitted and later federally convicted murderer Francis X. Livoti and the recurrently out of control egotist Michael Oliver have no business doing the high stress work required of police officers. It is also my view that the so-called "a few bad apples" theory is a euphemism. As I see it, in the absence of legislation that would mandate the kind of pre-screening that would weed out the psychos before they get in, there are potentially orchardsful of bad apples. I asked Ms. James if she would support such legislation and she said she would look into it.

I was glad to be sitting near the no-nonsense human rights activist Viola Plummer, the Councilman Charles Barron Chief of Staff, whose pay was stopped by Council Speaker Christine Quinn after Ms. Plummer made a hardly literal reference to "assassination" in her intense criticism of Quinn ally Councilman Leroy Comrie (D.-Queens) after Comrie supported Quinn's actual assassination of a bill to rename several blocks of a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant after black nationalist Sonny Carson. I am hopeful that mental health pre-screening legislation will get the support of Mr. Barron, whose candidacy for the borough presidency of Brooklyn may be keeping Bloomberg, Quinn and their real estate developer friends very much on edge. (Interestingly there were frequent references to "gentrification", a contributing factor to class-based anger, at the meeting.)

Probably the most dramatic part of the evening occurred with the previously unannounced arrival of William and Valerie Bell, Sean Bell's parents. Each of them spoke briefly, with Mrs. Bell emphasing the importance of, when possible, eating at home with family on Mother's Day. Some months ago I attended a vigil near the Jamaica, Queens precinct involved and met William Bell. He is among the most dignified of victims.

Although I am a resident of Staten Island, and a member of the civil rights-leading First Central Baptist Church led by Rev. Demetrius Carolina, I was unable to attend a recent Bell verdict-related rally organized by the borough's NAACP. I support the NAACP's call for complete NYPD and U.S. Justice Department investigations. That rally, however, was not without its element of irony. Among the speakers was Staten Island "peace" activist Sally Jones, standing not far from her rather intimidating husband David Jones, of whose violent temper I have been a target. As many people (including a bunch of witnesses), are well aware, Mr. Jones, apparently angered by my polite and rather mild comments about his wife's mishandling of the scheduling of an April 5 Peace Action of Staten Island event in the First Central Baptist Church parking lot, had to be physically restrained by a church mem-ber from assaulting me. It's a good thing the proudly militaristic "peace" activist David Jones is not a cop. As far as I am aware there has been no apology from Sally or David Jones.

In any case, it's time that the "bad apples" were screened out by law.
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