Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Friday, December 01, 2006

Shades of Diallo: Who are the victims?

On the day that Sean Bell was to be buried, the New York Police Department made several announcements as tensions increase in Queens in the wake of several raids conducted by the NYPD which is still searching for the elusive man in black it claims was fleeing the scene of the shooting, purportedly carrying a the "smoking" gun, according to the New York Daily News.

Actually, witnesses had described the "man in black" as wearing a beige jacket and it was the police department's assertion that he was fleeing with a gun.

The raids lead to six arrests on weapons related charges but no gun was uncovered, and no mystery man was either. People in an already tense neighborhood decried the raids and several called them efforts to "blame the victims".

Apparently, one suspected "mystery man" was uncovered, named Jean Nelson who had attended the stag party in question.


Nelson - a 27-year-old known on the street as M.O. - was one of several men who gathered for Bell's bachelor party at the Kalua Cabaret strip club in Jamaica before the fatal police shooting.

Cops picked up Nelson early yesterday, then kicked him loose without charging him - leading a high-ranking law enforcement source to say he was not the mystery man.

Later, Nelson was picked up again and rushed off in a police car, along with several other neighborhood residents.


The aggressive tactics infuriated black residents in Jamaica, who are seething over the fatal police shooting of yet another unarmed black man.

"I think what they are doing is repulsive, disgusting and deplorable," said Bishop Erskine Williams Sr., whose son was among those nabbed Wednesday and yesterday during the raids.

"They are trying to put together something to cover up an assassination and an execution of this young boy," said Williams, who has been acting as a spokesman for Benefield and Guzman.

William's son, Erskine, jr. was picked up allegedly for failing to pay a $25 trespassing fine as was his friend, Jameek Benston. LaToya Smith was not charged with any crime when the police came looking for her, nor was she asked about a gun. She did allege that officers questioning her about Bell's friends had told her that if she didn't tell them what they wanted to her, she would get five years.

If the United States Department of Justice is sitting on the sidelines watching as this takes place, it should think about doing an independent probe on the NYPD for this reason alone.

All this running around looking for a gun that if found is too far away from the epicenter of the shooting to prove anything except there are guns in Queens, simply to get out of trying to figure out why one officer broke his cover, another exhausted two magazines of his weapon and the supervising officer was not only shirking in his responsibilities over his officers, but he was hiding underneath the dashboard even while believing(in error) that they were in horrible danger.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is skipping the funeral at the family's request. No memorial of a son's death should become a circus. Thankfully he agrees.

Some say here that the NYPD has actually shown marked improvement in the past several years, according to the International Herald Tribune. Statistics show that officer-involved shootings are down and the average number of shots fired per shooting stands at about 3.8 bullets, which is down from five bullets which was the average last year.


"Our officers have shown, I think, tremendous restraint over time involving the use of force," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said this week.

This is of course, in the wake of a shooting that expended 50 bullets, nine more than what was expended in the shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999.

New York Civil Liberties Union head, Donna Lieberman has called for an independent probe of the Bell shooting.

"The shooting has to be looked at in that context," she said. "This is a time when the city should try to learn what went wrong — not be defensive, but try to identify problems and solutions."

The issue of how the department's special divisions including the narcotics and vice units should operate in neighborhood has also been the topic of much discussion and debate.

(excerpt, International Herald Tribune)

"Special units often become detached from the normal chain of supervision," said Samuel Walker, a police policy consultant and professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. "There's an attitude of, 'We can do what we want.'"

Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer who teaches police studies at John Jay, said the NYPD's reputation is deservedly high among most experts, but he also noted that special units had been involved in several of New York's troubling incidents.

"They tend to be in more dangerous situations," Moskos said. "But I don't think the local beat cops would have shot Diallo. They know the area better. There's less fear."

Fortunately, the NYPD is taking some time away from conducting sweeps, to re-evaluate how it operates its undercover units as related here.

Several high-ranking officers in the NYPD announced that there will be a committee convened to examine the recruitment and training of its undercover officers as well as look into a rule that doesn't mandate that undercover officers have their breath tested for alcohol concentration while onduty.

(excerpt, Xinhua)

"Obviously questions have arisen concerning our undercover procedures," said Kelly. "I want to take a fresh look at it, clean sheet of paper, examination of it. We have undercover operations in several of our bureaus and we want to make sure our procedures are appropriate, that our policies are appropriate and I think these are the right people to do that."

In Syndey, Australia, there is news that the NYPD continues to circle its wagons, here. At the New York Times blog, Empire Zone, there are many blogs listed where this shooting is being discussed including this one, Five Before Midnight.

Statistics on fatal officer-involved shootings mentioned in International Herald Tribune article:

New York City: nine shootings, with an average of 0.25 shootings per 1,000 officers.

Philedelphia: 19 shootings

Las Vegas: 12 with an average of 5.5 shootings per 1,000 officers

Riverside(not in article): 3 with an average of 7.9 shootings per 1,000 officers(10.5 shootings per 1,000 officers in 12 month period).


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