Tuesday, November 28, 2006


A reluctant Al Sharpton comes out of hiding

Quick show of hands: who knows what was the racial composition of the police group that shot and killed a NYC man hours before his wedding this past Sunday morning? I disdain identity politics but this incident has been blown up to be about race so the question is a fair one. Today’s Washington Post has an update which is surprisingly balanced in substance despite its predictable emphasis on racial strife and white guilt. N.Y. Mayor Calls Shooting 'Inexplicable'

First paragraph: “Once again a hail of police bullets has ended the life of an unarmed black New Yorker, and the city's mayor finds himself walking an uncertain line between reassuring black and Latino residents and defending his police force.”

Second paragraph: “With a City Council member saying that black people are being "murdered" and some black clergy signaling their discontent with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R), who is white,…”

Fourth paragraph: “In a visible symbol of Bloomberg's concern, he was accompanied by a number of prominent black pastors and politicians, including activist preacher Al Sharpton and Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.).”

Okay, we get it – this has all the makings of yet another example of a stereotypical racist police force killing blacks just for the hell of it. In fact it’s so bad that the normally reclusive Al Sharpton even “…journeyed to the Community Church of Christ in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens and vowed that he was going to "keep this in the street." I mean, who saw that one coming? – Al Sharpton putting himself in the limelight while putting a racial spin on an incident.


…later we learn (11th paragraph!): “…that the Hispanic officer who opened fire was a 12-year veteran and apparently thought the car was trying to hit him. Three of the five officers who fired shots were black or Latino.”

That doesn’t sound like a police force put together and trained by noted Democratic Party member (did I get that right?) Bull Connors, does it?

We also learn that an undercover officer apparently had initially tried to stop the men but “[t]he men tried to pull away in their car, scraping the leg of an officer. An officer fired a shot, and four more officers pulled out their 9mm guns and began shooting.”

But of course this version of events is deeply buried in a story that opens with the pandering: “Once again a hail of police bullets has ended the life of an unarmed black New Yorker…”

Fortunately, after wading through the trite, predictable blatherings of Al Sharpton, Donna Lieberman (of the so-called NY Civil Liberties Union) and of course the Mayor, we do get a voice of reason:

“Maki Haberfeld, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and specialist in the use of deadly force, said she was not inclined to second-guess officers operating under stress at night. "There are distorted perceptions of time and motion, and fear and adrenaline, and it takes 20 seconds to fire 50 shots," she said. "I'm taken aback by how the mayor indicted these officers. How could he know?"

…and this from academia! I just hope this doesn’t do too much damage to Ms. Haberfield’s career.

One happy by-product of my time as a Criminal Defense attorney is a deepening respect for the men and women of the various area police forces. For the most part they are professional, ethical and want to get it right. I don’t have all the facts in on this incident and it certainly is deserving of investigation but, generally, if all I know about an occurrence is that the police have one version and Al Sharpton has another…well… Tawanna Brawley.

One of the five officers fired 31 of the fifty shots, according to the NYPD, necessitating a reload.

Maybe it was justified. Most cops are indeed professional and strive to comprehensive excellence. But most of the cops at this incident did not fire 31 shots.

I am just glad that Al Sharpton has overcome his pathological shyness. I was really worried about him.
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