A few weeks after 9/11, Doug Stanhope went on stage and the first thing he said was, “Pardon me for not wearing my NYPD hat tonight to honor the fallen heroes, but you know, I wasn’t walking around a couple years ago with a plunger hanging out of my ass to honor that same force.” He was referring to the abuse of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized with a plunger handle by NYPD officers in 1997 after being arrested during a bar fight.
Balko notes another appalling incident — they seem to happen with great regularity — involving the NYPD. After a woman was hit with a stray bullet (but apparently not seriously hurt), the police decided that she was lying and that she had really been shot by a male friend of hers. So they arrested her and handcuffed her to a bench at the precinct for five days until she gave up the person they thought, for some reason, had really shot her.
Takesha Griffin, 35, said she was handcuffed to a bench in the squad room or locked in a filthy holding cell at the 73rd Precinct stationhouse during a spirit-shattering stretch last month. Cops asked her repeatedly if she was ready to cough up the real story.
“They wanted me to lie,” said Griffin, whose lawyer filed a notice of claim on Tuesday. “It was like ‘The Twilight Zone.’ ”During her lengthy confinement, Griffin said she urinated on herself when no one was available to escort her to the bathroom. She was also denied a sanitary napkin.
After many years of reporting these stories on my blog, I am still continually appalled. We need to redesign our criminal justice system top to bottom in this country and we need a serious effort to eliminate police misconduct and brutality. The ubiquity of cell phones and surveillance cameras have turned up hundreds and hundreds of instances of police lying on reports and framing people to excuse their own abusive actions, and those must be a mere fraction of the problem because in most cases we don’t have video to show that they are lying.
It isn’t that all cops are corrupt; they’re not. But it appears that most of those who don’t actually engage in such corruption at the very least are complicit in it because they fail to report it when they see it and circle the wagons around their fellow officers when they stand accused.
The irony is that if a politician even talks about the problem, the right will immediately accuse them of being soft on crime. But police brutality IS a crime. The only ones being soft on it are those who excuse it and engage in demagoguery to prevent a solution to it.