Two New York City police officers were shot and killed Saturday by a man who hours earlier vowed on social media to make history by avenging the questionable non-indictments of white police officers in the deaths of black men.
Ismaaiyl Abdula Brinsley, a 28-year-old black man, first shot his girlfriend in Baltimore, leaving her wounded, before he made his way to New York City and shot the cops in the head as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn.
Brinsley then ran into a subway where witnesses say he turned the gun on himself and fired, ending his life and sparking endless rounds of debate on social media at a time when national outrage against police abuse has reached epidermic proportions.
As usual, there was the overwhelming sympathy towards police officers that always occurs in the wake of cop killings. We are a nation that wants to believe in police. That has not changed even in the midst of this rising distrust and anger towards police.
But there is also a significant number of people who understand how a person could be driven to kill two cops in a random act of violence considering the rash of police abuse citizens that became huge news these last few months. Many people are even celebrating the deaths.
But Brinsley was a criminal. He was a thug. A man who would eventually have been imprisoned or killed, even had he not killed the two cops Saturday.
His own Facebook videos reveal an angry black man who seems to be looking for any excuse to fight, a man who was was not only racist towards whites, but towards black Africans in a video he posted while in a New York City taxi cap driven by a man from Africa.
One video posted below shows him trying to record a plainclothes cop with a dog trying to search his bag on a bus, but the cop orders him to stop recording.
While police tried to paint him as a member of the notorious prison gang, the Black Guerilla Family, there is no indication on his social media pages, which have now been removed, that was the case. Also, federal investigators stated they have found no connection to Brinsley and the prison gang, who allegedly have vowed to start killing white police officers as a way to send a message.
And as much as the NYPD will try to spin it, there is no connection to Brinsley and the protesters who have been taking to the streets least last few weeks to protest police violence.
Brinsley acted on his own as did Eric Frein of Pennsylvania this year as did Jared and Amanda Miller of Las Vegas earlier this year and Chris Dorner of Los Angeles in 2013, all who harbored deep anti-police sentiments.
But the consensus online from many people is that these attacks will continue to increase in the future given the fact that police in this country have made no attempts to curb their senseless attacks on citizens.
There is also the realization that the NYPD and police agencies from around the country will increase their aggression now that they have a legitimate argument that they are truly in fear for their lives.
After all, society has long placed a higher value on the lives of police officers than on on the lives of the citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.
Police Killings are Rare Compared to Citizens Killed by Police
The two cops killed Saturday, Wenjin Liu and Rafael Ramos, were the first NYPD cops shot in the line of duty since December 2011.
During that time, countless citizens have been killed by NYPD cops, including 24 shooting deaths in 2012 and 2013, as well as the chokehold death of Eric Garner in August and the shooting death of Akai Gurley while walking down a stairwell by a rookie cop claiming it was an “accidental discharge.”
A grand jury refused to indict NYPD officer Danny Pantaleo in the choking death of Garner and it is expected that Peter Liang, who shot Gurley in the stairwell, will also get off.
In fact, since 1999, NYPD cops have killed 179 people, 48 whom were unarmed, according to a New York Daily News investigation. Of those incidents, only three cops were indicted and only one was convicted, but never served jail time.
During those same 15 years, 12 police officers were killed by gunfire, including Saturday’s incident. Essentially, one cop killed for every four unarmed citizens killed.
On the national level, the ratio is much wider, even though an accurate ratio is difficult to determine because the federal government does not compile a total list of citizens killed by cops, which is why there have been several recent efforts for citizens to begin compiling their own data.
One site, Killed by Police, determined on November 21 that there have been 1,065 citizens killed by police since January 1. However, the FBI, which maintains a record of “justifiable homicides,” determine an average of 400 citizens are killed annually.
The FBI also determined that 27 cops died in “felonious deaths” in 2013 throughout the United States, a year in which the NYPD killed eight citizens in the five boroughs.
But NYPD unions did not hesitate to turn Saturday’s shooting in an opportunity to blame Mayor Bill de Blasio and the protesters for the killings, accusing them of having blood on their hands.
According to CBS New York:
“There’s blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest that tried to tear down what NYPD officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said. “That blood on the hands starts at City Hall in the office of the mayor.”
“Those who allowed this to happen will be held accountable,” he added.
The unions have already been at war with the mayor for having the audacity to suggest the NYPD needs to lay off its stop-and-frisk procedures on citizens who have committed no crimes as well as perhaps scale back on the aggression that has sparked the protests.
In typical dramatic fare earlier this month, union boss Lynch even passed around a form letter to officers, asking them to sign, stating that if they were to be killed in the line of duty, then the mayor is not welcome to their funerals. It is not clear if Liu and Ramos had an opportunity to sign this letter before their deaths.
Lynch is also accused of having sent out a memo threatening to have officers begin a work slowdown as they become a “wartime” police department. The memo was said to have been leaked by the union and posted by a Yahoo managing editor, but the union is now denying it came from them.
However, it is written in the hyperbolic style that Lynch is becoming renowned for:
“At least two units are to respond to EVERY call, no matter the condition or severity, no matter what type of job is pending, or what the option of the patrol supervisor happens to be. IN ADDITION: Absolutely NO enforcement action in the form of arrests and or summonses is to be taken unless absolutely necessary and an individual MUST be placed under arrest. These are precautions that were taken in the 1970’s when Police Officers were ambushed and executed on a regular basis. The mayors hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly.”
The Bloody 1970s
The early 1970s were a bloody time in the United States, especially in New York City, as you can see in the charts below compiled by the NYPD.
But to suggest we are returning to those violent times just because a lone gunman ambushed two cops is disingenuous to say the least. It’s simply an excuse for the NYPD to increase their militaristic tactics as they did in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks with the full approval of the people.
But that is exactly the reason why we cannot lose focus of the real issue at hand, which is that police are not only killing with reckless abandonment, they are getting away with it.
It’s not just New York City, but Ferguson, Beavercreek, Cleveland, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, just to name a few cites that have been in the headlines recently because of unwarranted police deaths.
Even the non-indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown is proving to have been a farce with the recent news that St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCullough admittedly allowed witnesses to testify, even though he knew they were lying.
One witness who claimed that Brown charged Wilson has a history of false testimony and was likely not even at the scene, but she is the one who likely tipped the grand jury’s decision in the officer’s favor.
This is not to justify Saturday’s killing of two NYPD cops. There should never be a justification of senseless murder.
It’s simply an attempt to put things into perspective because the Police PR Spin Machine will be going into full overdrive over the next few weeks and it’s important to step back and see the big picture.
Liu and Ramos will be painted as heroes over the next few weeks while Garner and Brown were painted as criminals who brought death upon themselves. In fact, that goes for anybody who police kill in the line of duty in the era of “comply or die” policing.
If a politician takes the bold step in siding with an unarmed citizen over the NYPD, as Mayor Bill de Blasio did in the shooting of Gurley last month, then the NYPD union paints him as the enemy along with the rest of us who criticize their trigger-happy actions.
As humans, we can be extremely compassionate and empathetic towards police officers who are killed in the line of duty, but we rarely see those sentiments from police when they kill unarmed citizens who are no threat to them, many of the fully innocent of any crime.
That was evident in the wake of the Garner death when Pantaleo was seen smiling and waving at the camera as well as in any police forum where officers display an indifferent callousness to the citizens they kill, not to mention the hordes of police friends and family members wearing “I can breathe” hoodies this week in a counter protest against an anti-police brutality demonstration.
But most citizens, no matter how critical they can be of police brutality, do not want to see cops get killed. And this is evident in the shocked reaction of LaBasia Mcbride, a young black woman who recorded the aftermath of the shooting Saturday, which you can see below.
But tensions between police and citizens will likely continue to rise in 2015 as violence begets violence. In fact, a Florida cop was killed in the line of duty only hours after the two NYPD cops were killed.
Not much information has been released in the killing of Tarpon Springs police officer Charles Kondek, a father of five and former NYPD officer, but he was the first officer killed from that agency since 1969.
While emotions are running high these days, we must not allow the cops and their supporters to paint us all as cop killers based on the actions of a handful of murdering criminals.
We must remain focused on the message of accountability, transparency and truth. We must continue to compile lists of citizens killed by police considering the FBI seems to be undercounting these incidents. And we must continue to record every police interaction.
But just because we will continue to strive for accountability does not make us the enemy.
However, based on what we’re hearing from the union bosses, we must either allow them to trample all over our rights without complaint or protest or be treated as enemy combatants in our own country where we risk death with every encounter.