Galvanized by the death of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed, legislators in cities and states and even at the Federal levels have enacted reforms that ensure that the future of policing will have a different character.
'That Day Is Over'
While those changes might have been considered fanciful just a few weeks ago, a contingent of retired black NYPD officers wants Federal law-enforcement officials to go further—and revisit past incidents involving possible abuses by police.
Speaking on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall just after noon on a sunny Juneteenth, Alicia Parker, a former NYPD Lieutenant Detective Commander, said the New York City Police Council of Retired Guardians, where she is a vice president, was calling on Attorneys General in all 50 states to reopen investigations into every incident during which unarmed persons died while in police custody if no officer was ever held accountable. The Guardians are also calling for investigations into possible civil-rights violations in those cases.
“The police cannot be judge, jury and executioner. That day is over. Black lives matter," said Ms. Parker, who joined the NYPD in 1973 and was among the first women assigned to patrol duties.
Not Just For Floyd
With members of the Guardians behind her clad in black T-shirts emblazoned with Black Lives Matter in red, gold and green, she said the demand was “not just for George Floyd, or Breonna Taylor, or now Rayshard Brooks, but for the countless black men and women and children that have had interactions with law enforcement and should be here today but are not.”
Saluting the retired officers, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, himself a retired NYPD captain, recalled the ostracism, from their own communities, directed at black persons who joined the department.
Called “traitors and sellouts,” the black cops contended with enmity on several fronts—as well as with their own anger and exasperation at the killings by police of black people.
“They had to fight racism from within,” said Mr. Adams, who co-founded a group of black NYPD officers to combat police brutality and racial profiling in the 1990s. “And as we joined as rookie cops, they gave us the baton and the responsibility to continue this relay, and it was a long, tiring run.”
A Teenage Nightmare
He recalled the day, when he was 15, that he and his brother were arrested for criminal trespassing in Queens, taken to the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica and beaten while cops laughed. Pausing several times to compose himself, he also noted the names of those killed by police: Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell among the better-known, but also 10-year-old Clifford Glover, also in Jamaica, in 1973, and Eleanor Bumpurs, a 66-year-old Bronx woman, in 1984.
But he and Ms. Parker said they were both hopeful reform efforts could, in Mr. Adams’s words, build on the devotion of those officers who make up the Police Council of Retired Guardians, and “rewire that racist DNA."
"There’s a place for the black men and women who went into an institution of indecency, and transformed it to the best of their ability to a place of decency," he said, "and finally the actions they did from within have been heard on the outside.”
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