Official Frank Serpico Blog
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I will be blogging on www.huffingtonpost.com
under frank serpico in black and white
Below are my unedited versions
TO PROTECT AND SERVE; LET'S GET REAL
"What did you think of the shooting in the city the other day" my friend on the other end of the line asked.He a retired NYPD Lieut.with 20 years of service."What shooting I asked, me a retired NYPD detective shot in the line of duty in a bungled buy and bust narcotics operation."Where the cop shot the other cop" he said matter of factly.
"What!" I exclaimed expecting to hear some bizarre tail of how some psycho cop went postal.
NOT! It was another case of white cop shoots black man and not the first time in NYC the black man turns out to be another cop.
"What do you think" I queried back."Well," after a pause, "another inexperienced young Turk, lacking, discretion and judgement assigned to an Anti Crime Unit.Where its' members may come across a tight situation that requires intelligent Police action,restraint and not reaction out of fear"
Bringing to mind the Diallo debacle, where four white cops assigned to a Street Crimes Unit panicked and fired 41 shots at an unarmedblack man standing in the doorway of his home in the Bronx.SCU, ACU, the name may change but the game is the same, it's a numbers game where it's members have, off the record, cart blancby the Mayor and his Commissioner to "toss" search suspects at will (allegedly with probable cause) and make arrests where applicable.
Most white plainclothes cops patrolling the streets of Harlem or the Bronx seem to assume or take for granted that every black or Hispanicmale "knows" they are cops.
At the same time, more often than not, assuming that just about every black or Hispanic male is a likely suspect of some misdeed or other,especially if he has a gun, real or imagined.
( In the Diallo case the officers on trial for manslaughter at their change of venue trial, testified they saw a gun where there was no gun.) In a partial attempt to cover up their blunder, among other lame excuses, the officers claimed from their car, they saw that Diallo resembled a rapist they were searching for. Diallo, a black man, resembled a photo of a black rapist in the hour after midnight?. It seems no mention was made at the trial of the officers cunning ability to discern a black man's features under such extraordinary circumstances.
Recalling a similar situation I once found myself in, one of four white cops in an unmarked car patrolling the streets of Harlem, when one of the occupants shouted "Stop the car!" racing up the stoop to a black man, standing in his doorway, without exhibiting a badge, they proceeded to violate his rights to unlawful search. Myself, feeling embarrassed at this unnecessary intrusion in another man's life, attempted to resolve the situation, while giving the other officer's an opportunity to save face. "Wait!" I said, looking the suspect in the face. "He doesn't fit the description" as if we were looking for a suspect at large. In so doing, I turned and said "I will be in the car."
When my colleagues returned, they reprimanded me "Some back up you are!" "Back up for what?" I smirked. Their lame excuse did not surprise me. "You know these niggers, you toss them good enough you will come up with something." On more than one occasion, responding to a citizen's call for police assistance in a dispute, where the suspects in question were a white and a black man, the officers would invariably approach the white guy, asking "What's the problem sir?" "I am the one who called" answered the black man, shyly.
I am sure the officers responsible for the gunning down of "one of their own," are not feeling good about their blunder, even though, one of their own, turned out to be a black cop. But a dying black officer or a dying black or white civilian, have the same feelings, and one would hope in the eyes of the law and a civilized society, a mortally wounded human being would be accorded the dignity as such, that the injured could feel secure in the fact that an agency that has "to protect and serve," as its motto, would make an attempt at saving their life.
But Officer Omar J. Edwards was given no such consideration, as he lay bleeding to death in the Harlem street, mentally teetering between life and death. He was not consoled and encouraged to "hold on, you're gonna make it" as I was not consoled by my "fellow officers," as I lay bleeding on a filthy tenement landing.
No, the assurance came from an old man of color, to me a white man, and it felt good, soothing me, encouraging me to hold on.
But Officer Omar J. Edward, father of two, young, proud, dedicated, still wearing his police academy tee shirt, after two years on the job, lay dying on a New York City street, hands shackled behind his back while his assailants stood by. Just another black "perp" victim of police indiscretion, and the higher commands inability or smug unwillingness to properly train and assign its officers.
Omar cannot speak for himself. He has been forever silenced. He is unable to defend himself against the unfair slights of posthumous revisionism.
Sure, I know what the patrol guide says and what it doesn't say, and I also know what the academic desk jockeys will say. But no self respecting police officer is going to see his personal effects riffled and not take immediate action and, as the report seems to indicate, Officer Edwards shield was properly displayed.
In my day, I was taught to take cover first, and on one occasion as I confronted an armed assailant holding a gun in each hand, that had just killed a man, I took cover behind a parked car. I was armed with my S&W snub nose five-shot revolver and with no extra rounds. I hollered "POLICE! DROP YOUR WEAPONS!" As he turned, yes, I fired, a warning shot, leaving me with four live rounds but I was in control of the situation. My next two rounds would be center mass, not a reckless volley. But the assailant was not game for a shoot out. He turned and ran. I apprehended him without much of a struggle.
Let's get real. In real life, no one reacts that quickly to a command. Sure, the patrol guide mandates you "Remain motionless, when so ordered." The average person is going to look to acknowledge who is giving the order. Each case is different. One night, I was on my post wrestling a burglar to the ground, when an unmarked car swerved around the corner. I thought they were coming to assist me, but the two clowns who called themselves "cops" opened fire without saying a word. It was only their bad shooting and my quick response in hitting the ground, thanks to my military training, that saved my life. In the aftermath, after some clever writing and rewriting, they were promoted to detectives and I got zilch.
In the end, the responsibility must fall on the shoulders of the high command. It is time that the men and women entrusted with the responsibility to protect and serve, be adequately and appropriately trained, assigned and compensated for the task at hand. The question remains, was Officer Edwards given the chance to drop his gun before he was cut down in a hale of bullets. Sure, Officer Edwards is being posthumously promoted to Detective First Grade. Great. Perhaps to placate his widow and his two children. Perhaps to discourage a wrongful death suit.
I am sure Officer Omar Edwards and his kids would say "Shove it. I want my daddy back."