Patrick Lynch, the police union honcho in New York City, is the modern day equivalent of two notorious ‘characters,’ Don Corleone, the fictional yet accurate characterization of a mob boss in “The Godfather” and the very real lawless Jim Crow era sheriff, Bull Connor of Birmingham Alabama. Lynch’s ‘us against them’ mentality has created a dangerous climate for New York City’s police officers and the citizens they are supposedly sworn to protect. And his vile reaction to citizen outrage over the videotaped strangling of Eric Garner by a police officer in Staten Island is reminiscent of the period of southern justice in America when Blacks were expected to be silent and submissive in the face of being terrorized.
The question is always asked as to why Black men are angry. The answer is self-evident for anyone who chooses to see the truth. It is partly due to the behavior of Angry Blue Men who, regardless of race, feel entitled to inflict bodily harm, and mete out a death sentence, to those who simply exercise their human right to live and are brazen enough to challenge police infringement of that right. Since the trans-Atlantic slave trade Black people, and Black men in particular, have been subjected to unwarranted white anger and the institutional terror imposed on us with the imprimatur of the state in the form of police brutality and the dispensation of injustice through the courts.
Now, Angry Blue Men, behind tin badges and the encouragement of thuggish union leadership has declared war on political leadership that empathizes with the plight of an abused and offended citizenry and a public that dares to hold police accountable. The mob type behavior Patrick Lynch encouraged with New York City police officers disgracing their uniforms by turning their back on Mayor Bill de Blasio at the funerals of fallen officers, only reinforces the image of a police force out of control and seemingly oblivious to their duty as civil servants. These actions shape the public’s negative perceptions of law enforcement and fuel their mistrust of police, while also creating a dangerous climate for those officers who attempt to discharge their duties in a lawful and respectful manner.
What we are witnessing in New York City, and a few other places, is an emerging police state; a militarized force seemingly beyond political control and not bound by law. The NYPD is acting in an extra-governmental manner; creating its own rules of engagement and breeding a culture of contempt for the rule of law. Through the PBA it is engaging in a siege mentality; declaring everyone out of uniform an ‘enemy’ and sending a clear message to the rank and file that loyalty supersedes the law and the responsibility of the police to serve the public. The infamous ‘blue wall of silence’ is real and operates much like a gang code, where violators are sure to be punished and Black officers in an overwhelmingly white force know the penalty for truth-saying could be ‘accidental’ injury or death. The NYPD is very much operating as a white militia in a majority Black-brown city and its union leadership reinforces that posture by constantly inflaming tensions in the city.
The murder of Eric Garner is not the first blatant offense by Angry Blue Men. Eighteen years ago my former Morgan State University classmate Charles Campbell was gunned down by an off-duty police officer, Richard DiGuglielmo, after a dispute over a parking spot. Chaz, as we called him at Morgan, was shot several times by DiGuglielmo, after being attacked by the cop, the cop’s father and brother-in-law, outside a deli owned by the officer’s family in Dobbs Ferry New York. He died several minutes later, a victim of police violence at age 37. In a rarity there was some semblance of justice in that case for Campbell’s family as DiGuglielmo is serving a 20-years to life sentence on a murder conviction. Even in a relatively tranquil hamlet like Dobbs Ferry New York Black men are vulnerable to police violence.
For different reasons what also makes the Garner case so pointed is its location. Staten Island stands as a modern day Birmingham paralyzed by the past; a place stuck in time with a racial hierarchy and a determination to hold onto the rigidness of 20th century race relations. The borough is an example of the New York City that was, desperately resisting and fighting the new majority of the city today. It is a cross between a “Good Fellas” scene and a snapshot of a Jim Crow era southern town, and is rife with that special brand of northern racism that lies right below the surface in many communities above the Mason Dixon line. It a perfect stage for the likes of PBA president Patrick Lynch to stir racial animosity.
What is evident is that the NYPD is intent on thumbing its nose at the criminal justice system and is making plain that it will operate as it pleases, and to the detriment of the public. This attitude alone should compel the United States Department of Justice to put the NYPD under its watch and active monitoring, in addition to the New York legislature creating a special prosecutor to investigate incidents of police violence. The only way we will see a curtailment of these incidents is when perpetrators realize that they will be held accountable and face imprisonment for their actions.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com