The Sean Bell Verdict

Last week, the three NYPD officers charged with murdering Sean Bell in 2006 were acquitted of all charges. I don’t have much more to say on the issue than has already been said, but I wanted to make sure this news was acknowledged here at Feministing. Ann has a post up about it at TAPPED, comparing the case to the situation of Amadou Diallo and Jack at Angry Brown Butch has some interesting things to say about what it means find justice in this case.

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59 Comments

  1. katie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    you know what, i am dating an officer in the NYPD and frankly there is alot more to it then anyone knows about or will acknowledge. what i ask of everyone is this. if your husband or father or mother or daughter was in that situation, and felt their life was in danger, would you not want them to do anything they could to save their own lives?
    if you believe the other peoples accounts, which were contradictory, then you are basically believing a bunch of criminals with police records over the cops, who put their life on the line every single day.
    i am not entirely sure how much sense that makes at all. furthermore, lets not forget two of the cops were black, so any attempt to make this into a racial issue is abominable.
    it saddens me to see fellow liberals basically believing the testimony of people with police records, who were at a strip club with a horrible reputation, over officers who get paid a dismal amount of money to make sure that you stay safe
    let me also mention that i would NEVER defend the nypd in the diallo case, that man was an innocent law abiding citizen, so to compare THIS to that case is frankly, an insult to diallo.

  2. dodgerdodger
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    @katie
    I am not familiar with the detailed facts of the case, so this is a general comment rather than a specific one.
    But not everyone with a criminal conviction is guilty.
    And not everyone with a clean record is innocent.
    And the racial context of the situation is not obviated by the race of those shooting. Racism is not only personal. It is also institutional. There has been clearly demonstrated racial discrimination involved in the application of force by the institution of the NYCPD, as well as by the police departments of every other American city, and that is the legacy that precedes this event.
    The verdict in this trial may have been an accurate assessment of a terrible accident rather than a miscarriage of justice. But the reasons you gave are not good enough to declare the issue settled and the protestors out of line.

  3. tinfoil hattie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    You’re not serious, right, Katie? What you are saying is: these men have committed crimes before. Therefore, cops are justified in shooting dozens of bullets at unarmed men, because somehow the cops could tell by looking that these men had committed crimes and therefore should be SHOT! Without QUESTION!
    Were you there? Did you see what happened? Did the cops follow proper procedure to the letter? You don’t know for sure, do you?
    I didn’t think so.
    You’re unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable.
    Diallo was different because he was “law abiding.” Sean Bell — ahhh, he committed a crime before anyway, so fuck it. Shoot him with impunity. After all, he did something wrong once before, didn’t he? And he was at a strip club! Which is something you should be SHOT for!
    (Yeah, I hate strip clubs and their misogyny — and I wouldn’t shoot the men who went to one, whether or not it had a “bad reputation.”)
    If you’re a “liberal,” I’m shedding the mantle.

  4. katie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Actually, tinfoil, thats not what i am saying at all. furthermore, i am not saying ANYONE in this situation “deserved” it. So maybe you should take a look at what i wrote before flying off the handle.
    what i said is, these cops felt threatened. that was part of their testimony. what i asked is that if someone you loved was a cop, and they felt that there was clear and present danger to their life, would you NOT want them to do everything they could to protect themselves.
    then what i said was that these other men had conflicting testimony as to what happened. that is the problem that the judge had with it. it is the prosecuters job to show that they were guilty beyond resonable doubt. conflicting testimoney does not show that.
    then what i also said is that i think its pretty interesting that people are believing the testimoney of convicted criminals who cant even keep their stories straight over that of the cops.
    no where did i say anyone deserved to get shot. i also think its a tragedy. for all involved.
    no where in this case did anyone actually think that these cops shot without question. most humans just dont do that.
    and if you THINK they did, well then i think you really need to take a better look at the facts.

  5. ellestar
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    what i ask of everyone is this. if your husband or father or mother or daughter was in that situation, and felt their life was in danger, would you not want them to do anything they could to save their own lives?
    I also have family who work in law enforcement (Chicago Police), but I do not think that being a police officer makes you exempt from facing charges if you make a fatal mistake.
    And as for having a husband/daughter/other family member “in that situation,” I think it’s just as easy for us to put those family members in the situation of the man who was killed. Yes, the police officers in my family may get killed by civilians. But civilians in my family may (wrongly) get killed by police officers. It shouldn’t make any difference, but if a trial is brought in either case, one is far more likely to result in a conviction and “justice” for the family.
    if you believe the other peoples accounts, which were contradictory, then you are basically believing a bunch of criminals with police records over the cops, who put their life on the line every single day.
    Again, with police in my family, I have no problem with “believing a bunch of criminals.” Being a police officer doesn’t make you always tell the truth or is automatically result of being a good person. While the vast majority of police officers are good people, not all of them are.
    Also, believing someone’s (even if they have a criminal record) account of an incident where an unarmed man is shot numerous times doesn’t mean that we’re morons. We are using our past experiences to inform us. I’ve known shitty cops who will lie and break the laws they should be upholding in order to make their lives easier. I’ve also known great cops who have sacrificed and done what is right in complicated situations.
    I’m not going to automatically assume that a cop isn’t an asshole when a situation arises that looks to be the police officer’s fault because I have known way too many asshole cops (in my family and not).
    t saddens me to see fellow liberals basically believing the testimony of people with police records, who were at a strip club with a horrible reputation, over officers who get paid a dismal amount of money to make sure that you stay safe
    To sum up:
    Being a criminal (or having a criminal record) does NOT make you a de facto liar.
    Being a police officer does NOT make you a saint.

  6. katie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    also dodger roger, i agree with basically everything you are saying. i.e. institutionalized racism.

  7. Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Hey all–
    I want to try and hold the flow of this conversation off before it goes too far.
    Victim blaming in this comment thread won’t be tolerated. It’s disrespectful and unproductive.
    Further comments with that kind of content will be deleted.
    Miriam

  8. katie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    i agree ellestar, however, do you not think people who deliberately break the law on a regular basis are less credible (ESPECIALLY when they have conflicting testimony-if everything was lining up in their testimony then sure i hear ya) then those who work in law enforcement? isnt that something we need to assume.
    trust me when i say i think all cops are saints. TRUST me. that is not what i want to argue at all here.
    i also dont think that they should not have faced charges. absolutely they should have. in no way do i think they are above the law. i also think that the verdict needs to be examined and protested and whatnot, however what i am seeing is the left COMPLETELY discounting the idea that indeed, those cops are innocent. and that is sort of troubling for me.
    as for your quote “the vast majority of police officers are good people” i agree. are the vast majority of convicted criminals good people? i am going to say no, they arent. again, that does not mean they deserved to get shot without question, what it means is i call their credibility into question.

  9. katie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    whose victim blaming? that would automatically assume he was murdered and it wasnt a tragic accident? no one here is saying he deserved it or that he WAS doing anything wrong at the time. unless you do believe that he was trying to run over the cops with his car, which he very well could have. and even then that doesnt mean he deserves it, it just means that is an unfortunate outcome of a horrible situation like this.
    i am not really sure how anyone is supposed to have a conversation about this if you think this is victim blaming? i am honestly confused?

  10. Jessica
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    …you are basically believing a bunch of criminals
    …it saddens me to see fellow liberals basically believing the testimony of people with police records, who were at a strip club with a horrible reputation

    THAT’S victim blaming

  11. Sandinista
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    do you not think people who deliberately break the law on a regular basis are less credible (ESPECIALLY when they have conflicting testimony-if everything was lining up in their testimony then sure i hear ya) then those who work in law enforcement? isnt that something we need to assume.
    First of all, we need to not assume that cops and “people who deliberately break the law on a regular basis” are two distinct entities. This is a false binary. Secondly, no. There is nothing about cops that makes them inherently credible, especially when it comes to closing ranks to protect their own. If anything, the opposite is true.
    the left COMPLETELY discounting the idea that indeed, those cops are innocent
    That’s because innocent people don’t often put fifty bullets into an unarmed man.
    as for your quote “the vast majority of police officers are good people” i agree.
    I don’t.

  12. katie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    no, what i am saying is that those facts, to me, make their testimony less credible. its far from blaming them for being shot/hurt. that being said, there are certain situations you can put yourself in that will be more dangerous then others. so maybe i am saying they arent smart for doing it, but it doesnt mean anyone deserves to die.
    you are entitled to your opinion sandinista about cops, and i am sorry you feel that way. (and i also agree about the binary you point out) but thats how i feel about people who break the law and who frequent strip clubs which are known for drugs and violence.
    i honestly dont think those guys tried to murder anyone. would i agree to reckless endangerment or something along those lines. absolutely. but murder? just to purposely commit murder? no i dont believe that is what happened.
    i am not sure anyone here really realizes that cops are taught to unload anytime they feel there is a danger to their lives or other officers. if they thought that there was emminent danger, and that those men had guns, well, i am not sure what you expect anyone to do. they might have used bad judgement, acted too quickly, but who knows. the fact is, they were acquitted of murder bc the facts simply dont show beyond reasonable doubt that these guys went out with the sole intention to put 50 bullets into an innocent man.

  13. chrismb
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for acknowledging this case, but is there a reason you waited until today to do so? I have to say, I expected feministing to be all over this as soon as the verdict was announced.

  14. Sandinista
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    there are certain situations you can put yourself in that will be more dangerous then others
    That’s the freaking definition of victim blaming.
    reckless endangerment or something along those lines. absolutely. but murder? just to purposely commit murder?
    Reckless endangerment?! You can’t be serious. You just can’t be. THEY SHOT HIM FIFTY TIMES. They did not “endanger” him, they didn’t even neutralize him as a threat, they KILLED him and they made DAMN SURE that they’d killed him.
    i am not sure anyone here really realizes that cops are taught to unload anytime they feel there is a danger to their lives or other officers.
    And that makes it okay how?
    if they thought that there was emminent danger, and that those men had guns, well, i am not sure what you expect anyone to do.
    I think the cops present eminent danger and have guns. Am I to understand I can shoot them at will?
    they were acquitted of murder bc the facts simply dont show beyond reasonable doubt that these guys went out with the sole intention to put 50 bullets into an innocent man.
    First of all, they were acquitted because 1) he was Black and 2) they are cops. Furthermore, whether or not you committed murder does not hinge on what intention you “went out” with.

  15. katie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    you know, heres the thing, I just think that there are two sides to every issue, and I dont think I have seen many liberals look at both sides, its just instant OMG THAT GUY IS COMPLETELY INNOCENT AND THOSE COPS ARE MURDERERS, without really knowing alot of the facts, or even being at the trial.
    the testimony has said that they thought he had a gun, he tried to hit them with a car, and alot of people seem to not believe that that could have possibly happened at all. i know alot of the time differing opinions are not welcome on this board, which is why i don’t post much, but in no way am i being mean or disrespectful which is more then i can say for everyone.
    if indeed, those cops thought he was trying to kill them, you still think its murder? a deliberate act of murder that was wrong. because i would not feel badly if i killed someone who was trying to kill me with a car. i would feel bad if i killed someone who i THOUGHT was trying to kill me and it was a complete misunderstanding. which that could have been the case here too.
    i look at victim blaming as when people say “the girl was raped bc she was wearing a short skirt and was asking for it” not acknowledging that there are situations that are more likely to go wrong because its a high crime area. i mean, if you were in bed stuy at 2am on a sat night alone in a dark alley, it doesnt mean you deserve anything happening to you, but is it surprising when it does? of course not, thats just common sense. doesnt make it right, but as a human you have to have some sense of self preservation and when you dont, shit can happen.
    also, if this guy was trying to run someone over well, i am not so sure hes “only” a victim. it goes both ways here.
    as for the 50 bullets well, if its dark, and you cant see whose driving the car, or where those bullets are going, its not like you can try to shoot someone in the arm to “neutralize” the threat”. making statements like that is a little naive if you have never work in law enforcement or had your life put in danger.

  16. Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    i am not sure anyone here really realizes that cops are taught to unload anytime they feel there is a danger to their lives or other officers.
    You do know that is also standard procedure to reassess after firing three rounds? And officer Oliver shot him 31 times.
    I too have a lot of family members and friends in the NYPD. I’m also dating a black man from Jamaica, Queens. Those detectives who shot Sean Bell didn’t know whether or not he had a criminal history, and being at a strip club for a bachelor party hardly makes a person a “frequenter” of strip clubs. I don’t necessarily like the idea of strip clubs, but a lot of men traditionally go to them the night before their weddings, and I doubt they are all bad men with criminal records.
    Also, not all liberals dismiss the idea that these cops could be innocent. I understand that cops have a shitty and frightening job.
    But I’ve heard racist shit all my life from these cops, who I consider good and loving people on the whole. The acquittal does not shock me. I don’t even completely disagree with it. I do think Oliver should be behind bars based on the testimony and the evidence. His story changed three times- just like those “criminals” who got shot.

  17. Miriam Perez
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    chrismb–
    Two reasons there was a delay:
    1–Waiting to see if someone else on the blogging team was going to post about it
    2–Wanting to hear other reactions from people who have been keeping up with the case and post about these issues regularly. These are not my areas of expertise, but I realized that the results needed to be acknowledged here.

  18. crystalee
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    This might be a little off topic, but I do have a legitimate questions about how to deal with the semantics of this discussion.
    How would one go about “defending” the cops or their behavior in this situation without “victim blaming”? Since no one’s claiming that the cops didn’t shoot Mr. Bell over 50 times, the only way, as I see it, to claim that they are not guilty is to say that he did something to provoke the police. If this is victim blaming, then can we truly only express the opinion that Bell was innocent and posed no danger to the officers?
    For the record, I am actually of that opinion. But if someone thinks that he was in some way posing a threat to the police, I’d sure like to hear why they think that.

  19. hungerheadache
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this.
    This issue goes so far beyond this specific incident.

  20. Sandinista
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Crystalee:
    There’s a difference between provoking the police by brandishing a weapon, making threats or otherwise acting as a violent threat and “provoking the police” by being a Black man with a criminal record leaving a strip club. You see what I’m saying? It’s victim blaming when you’re assigning some/all of the blame to a person based on irrelevant and/or past concepts/actions (he had a criminal record) rather than based on current actions (acting in a threatening manner).

  21. sgzax
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Crystalee:
    I’m of the opinion that there is absolutely no way to provoke being shot fifty times. Police are supposed to use only the amount of force necessary to control the situation. Fifty gunshots? The police need to be better than this.

  22. crystalee
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Sandinista, That’s a completely locigal differentiation that I can get behind. Thank you.
    sgzax, I am also of that opinion.

  23. jessedouglas
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Katie on this one in terms of her general conclusions, if not her argument in its entirety.
    Since none of us was there, we won’t know the facts of the situation. But this is not the Diallo case, or even analogous to it in most ways.
    Diallo was unarmed and posed no immediate threat to the officers. In the Bell case, the driver may not have had a knife or a gun, but he did have a multi-ton vehicle which he used to either threaten or actually run down the officers who were on the scene. There is a very clear situation of mortal threat to the officers here. In the end, they may have not acted properly, but I don’t believe they acted criminally.
    As Katie notes, who here knows what they would have done in this situation. In my case, I would use any means available to me at the time to save myself or my compatriots. If I happened to have a gun (I don’t), I would probably use that too.

  24. Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Let’s not forget that Sean Bell was approached by plainclothes officers brandishing weapons. A logical reaction to being confronted by armed men with no visible identification as police officers would be to defend yourself or get away, even if that meant running down the men accosting you.
    It seems that the situation was grievously botched by the police. At the very least a verdict of manslaughter should have been returned.

  25. LittlePunk
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    This incident, as disturbing and tragic as it is, has the potential to spark valuable debate. In one of my psych courses we discussed implicit attitudes. A study that measures unconscious preference found that people (both black and white) show a tendency to more quickly associate blacks with violence. I find it extremely unsettling that we live in a culture where these biases exist, even for people of whom the bias targets. It’s hard to pin point the cause, i.e the media, general cultural attitudes, politics, what do you guys think?

  26. LittlePunk
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I want to add a disclaimer that I’m not making a judgement about this case. It could have been a complete accident or a premeditated murder. Since I don’t have access to all of the facts I can’t make a good assessment. However, I would speculate that it is somewhere between those two extremes, most likely either a case of explicit or implicit prejudice.

  27. sojourner
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    “Diallo was unarmed and posed no immediate threat to the officers. In the Bell case, the driver may not have had a knife or a gun, but he did have a multi-ton vehicle which he used to either threaten or actually run down the officers who were on the scene.�
    Uh, what?? So now being an automobile counts as being armed?? So is any driver automatically considered a threat or is it just young black males?

  28. puckalish
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    are the vast majority of convicted criminals good people? i am going to say no, they arent.
    two things:
    1. yeah, i believe the vast majority of convicted criminals are good people… among other things, my father’s a convicted criminal… i associate with convicted criminals… i’ve narrowly avoided conviction on at least four occasions (albeit three of those were protest-related)… my work in drug treatment and drug policy led me to get to know many convicted criminals who have records as a result of an illness… and, if you look at the numbers, the vast majority of convicted criminals have been convicted of nonviolent crimes – whether crimes of addiction or crimes of poverty, we’re not talking about bad people…
    2. regardless, do convicted criminals walk around with signs floating over their heads? or are they magnetic, attracting the ferrous materials in police bullets? before unloading 51 bullets on these (according to bar testimony) not-very-drunk revelers… further, considering that the overwhelming majority of convictions these men faced were drug related, would you say that a drug user is less reliable a witness than a tough-on-crime alcoholic?
    with all that, i’m probably as guilty of undermining my own argument as bell’s friends were for being upset on the stand (which is one of the stated reasons, according to cnn, for which their testimony was treated with less weight)…
    now, if i’m in my car with my friends and some plain-clothed individuals pull guns and start yelling, i’m going to slam on the gas, too… that’s not “trying to run someone over”, that’s “trying to keep from getting killed.”
    according to the nyt, lt. napoli testified that the police did not identify themselves… and no officers offered testimony to the effect that, aside from two officers having their badges on their clothing (at night, outside of a car, with guns drawn), the officers identified themselves as police before opening fire.
    the comparison to the diallo case is pretty on-the-money, i think, because if amadou diallo’s murderers were acquitted, how could we ever expect these cops to be convicted?
    finally, thanks, sandinista, for clarifying what “victim blaming” is… having a criminal record or going to a strip club (boorish an act as it is) in bed stuy is not provoking lethal action from police…
    actually, i’d say that being in bed stuy at 4am would convince me that i should not stick around to see what happens when two cars box me in and there are several plain-clothed individuals with guns asking me to get out of my car… but that’s just me – i don’t like being carjacked.
    garvey’s ghost had some good coverage of the grand jury testimony which included some damning testimony from the defendants, testimony which was not repeated (for what are probably some obvious reasons) in the trial…
    http://garveys-ghost.blogspot.com/2008/04/sean-bell-watchthe-grand-jury-testimony.html
    now, one big problem i have is – i don’t understand why cops are always getting tried before a judge. i understand that we all have a right to a juried trial, but, considering that trial judges work with the police, you’d think they’d be predisposed to err on the side of the police…
    heck, i can’t think of a single time when police have been convicted in a case like this… except for abner louima’s case and that’s only because there is no fantastic twist of the world which could ever explain away raping a man with a broom handle…
    otherwise, assumptions, like katie’s, that police tend to tell the truth and petty criminals tend to lie (or deserve to be shot?), can actually outweigh evidence (such as that there was no gun in the car, no gun was ever fired from the car [no gunpowder residue], even the bag of weed on the street couldn’t be connected to the car) and get trigger-happy policemen off the hook for killing people with their whole lives ahead of them…
    jesse, these cops killed a man and injured his friends… when “not acting properly” results in the wrongful death of an innocent civilian, that’s criminal. if i don’t shovel my sidewalk, i’m “acting improperly.” if someone slips and sustains injury, i’m criminally and civilly culpable. if i shoot and kill an unarmed man, there’s some responsibility to be had there as well.
    so, jesse, ask yourself, what would you do if someone was following you and your friends at a distance down a dark street to your car. then, when you got in your car, you got boxed in by two other vehicles and several armed people appeared, without clearly announcing themselves as police… what would you do? would you try to get away? that’s all sean bell did.
    if you had a gun, would you have shot at the (unidentified) cops? now, if you did that – and you survived – you would probably go to jail.
    keep that in mind.
    yeah, none of us were there, but there is ample grand jury testimony and evidence… evidence, just as there was in diallo’s case… just as there was in antonio rosario and hilton vega’s case, just as there was in frankie arzuaga’s case, just as there was in yong xin huang’s case…
    don’t take an acquittal (or dismissal) as an absolution… because it’s not… because, in nyc, and throughout the nation, there’s a long history of cops killing innocent people and not facing time for it… i was just listening to marvin gaye singing “inner city blues” the other day – penned thirty seven years ago… singing about “trigger happy policing.”
    this ain’t living.

  29. llevinso
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    These are questions I would like to have answered regarding this case:
    Why did the plainclothes officers wait until Bell and his friends were in the car before they approached them with their guns drawn?
    How long of a time period elapsed between them drawing their guns on the victims and firing on the victims?
    Was the car already moving when the shots started?
    Where were the cops positioned in relation to the car when they approached it with guns drawn?
    It has been stated that one officer heard one of Bell’s friends say they were going to get their gun. It is obvious that the officer misheard this man since he had no gun on him or in the car. But if the officer had heard him say he was going to get a gun why did he wait until he was in the car (with the supposed weapon) before approaching him? That doesn’t make sense to me.
    Also since these officers were in plainclothes would it have been obvious to Bell and his friends that they were police? I think it is highly possible that they were scared and thought some people were coming to rob them. The officers had guns drawn and were not wearing their uniforms, there’s bound to be some confusion.
    Like I said I don’t know how much time elapsed between the drawing of the officers’ guns and the firing, but if Bell thought someone was trying to shoot and/or rob him it is very possible that his only thought would be “Let me get out of here!�
    Now, if the cops were far off to the side and did not in fact start shooting until the car came moving towards them (because then it would be obvious that the driver was aiming for them) I can understand why they might respond with deadly force. However, if the cops were surrounding the car or very close to the car I just don’t see how it can be said that Bell was trying to run them down and that’s why they fired. If you are in front of a car and shooting at it, my guess is you might get hit by the car. Does that mean the driver was aiming for you? No. It means he’s trying to get away from someone shooting at him and the car is going in the direction it was pointed in in the first place.
    From my reading of this case I think it is clear that the police officers did not use their best judgment. I don’t know the law well enough to know what I think they should’ve been charged with (and found guilty of). But I do think that them getting completely acquitted was wrong. I understand police have a dangerous job, but at the same time they have to be held to somewhat a higher standard then the rest of us.

  30. Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    It’s victim blaming when you’re assigning some/all of the blame to a person based on irrelevant and/or past concepts/actions (he had a criminal record) rather than based on current actions (acting in a threatening manner).
    And the officers involved don’t get a similar benefit because..?

  31. david
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I am concerned that as we look at this case we are missing a few of the vital facts, so let me reference wikipedia, not the best, but I am sure it is accurate for what is below.
    Five of the seven officers investigating the club were involved in the shooting. Detective Paul Headley fired one round, Officer Michael Carey fired three, Officer Marc Cooper fired four, Officer Gescard Isnora fired eleven, and veteran officer Michael Oliver emptied two full magazines, firing 31 shots from a 9mm handgun and pausing to reload at least once.[13][23][24][25] –Wikipedia
    So, it sounds to me that there were a number of officers there, and if you read the whole article, one of Bell’s friends said “yo, get my gun and kill that dumb white bitch” while in the club.
    First of all, there were seven officers there, you don’t have seven officers in one place unless there is a huge possibility of there being violence, so any sort of threat would be more aggressively acted on. But, that being said, 3 of the 5 fired 1-4 shots, so it was really only two of the officers who acted out of line, and no one seems to be raising a stink about the two officers who didn’t go on trial. So it seems to be that the real argument is not was there a threat, or was the action not somehow provoked, but rather the fact that 2 of the seven officers fell off the deep end (the one who fired 4 shots is on trial for dangerous engagement, ie he fired one extra shot and broke protocol, and was only facing a possible one year sentence). Those who did use excessive force should definitely be punished somehow; I will leave the means to other to decide.
    I bring this up because I feel like this thread, and in similar cases, we have painted the “cops� as a group that acted as a single unit. Just like how we are not supposed to believe Mr. Bell less or pass judgment on him because of his past or where he was, we cannot pass judgment on all the cops because of what other cops have done.
    In my opinion the ones who shoot excessively should be punished, but the ones who acted under protocol did just that, they did what they were trained to do, sense a threat and respond, and I don’t think they are at all guilty. And I don’t think cases like these should make all cops look bad, though I do agree that they defend each other way to much and that needs to change. But we cannot get rid of the good cops in our efforts to get rid of the bad ones.

  32. puckalish
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    rocket,
    because they’re not the victims… because they’re not dead… because they didn’t get 51 shots fired at them when they were anarmed.
    and how did they get blamed based on “irrelevant and/or past concepts/actions”? because they were assumed INNOCENT due to their status as cops?
    seems like they reaped those benefits while being the aggressors/victimizers.

  33. llevinso
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Oh and I also hated that when the verdict was released someone said (I don’t remember who, but it happened at a press conference) that “There are no winners. There are no losers [in this case].” WHAT?!?! What about the Sean Bell and his family? I think they definitely lost something here.

  34. Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    and how did they get blamed based on “irrelevant and/or past concepts/actions”? because they were assumed INNOCENT due to their status as cops?
    Well, no, I was referring to the fact that they’re assumed to be racists because the NYPD has a history of racism. If the specific criminal history of the “victims” isn’t supposed to tell us anything about their actions that night, or the credibility of their accounts, then it doesn’t really seem fair to impugn the cops with the general history of their 40,000-person department.

  35. Steve
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m wondering why this is a feminist issue. I understand that it’s a racism issue, and that WOC deal with sexism and racism, but this issues is about men being shot by men in an act that was arguably racially motivated. Doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with feminism to me. Please enlighten me on this.

  36. Mina
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    “I’m wondering why this is a feminist issue. I understand that it’s a racism issue, and that WOC deal with sexism and racism, but this issues is about men being shot by men in an act that was arguably racially motivated. Doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with feminism to me.”
    Hmm…if Sean Bell had been female and leaving a club with male strippers at the end of her bachelorette party, would her chances of survival have been any better than his was IRL?

  37. Amanda
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Of course this is a feminist issue. You say (rocket), “I understand that it’s a racism issue…”–and racism is a feminist issue, while so is masculinity and the power of authority. If the police felt it necessary to shoot 50 bullets at unarmed black men, imagine what they will do to women.
    It is entirely necessary to discuss this issue, especially since it speaks to systemic racism, which is something that shapes the lives of many women and people of color who peruse this site.
    I’m personally offended that there wasn’t more written about the case. There was no context, nor were there any details about what actually occurred that evening. Once you do research on the case, you can see how disturbing it is that the police were acquitted.
    Allowing this to happen–and not critiquing it–is anti-feminist. It’s allowing violence to continue, and as long as violence continues, so will women’s oppression.
    Lastly, there’s been a great deal of discussion regarding authority figures protecting themselves (in response to Bell driving his car into a police van and, supposedly, trying to hit an officer).
    With the history of police brutality towards people of color, it is no wonder why someone would be trying to get away from something that could be potentially life-threatening (and was, ultimately). 50 shots? 13 in one man. That is ridiculous, and there’s no excuse, whether or not it was “dark out,” as one person stated on this board.
    Lastly, I’m not saying we should totally discount and disregard opinions of those who believe this was the correct way of handling the incident. However, it’s important to understand the context of the situation. Yes, Bell had a criminal history, but as someone was quoted in the New York Times from his area, most people in his neighborhood had criminal histories. This also speaks to how the socioeconomic status of a certain area can influence the people living in it.
    It’s a complex issue…but this kind of violence and lack of control is inexcusable.

  38. tinfoil hattie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Katie:
    let me also mention that i would NEVER defend the nypd in the diallo case, that man was an innocent law abiding citizen, so to compare THIS to that case is frankly, an insult to diallo.
    You may not think that translates to “non innocent criminals deserved it,” but maybe you’re the one who needs to take a closer look at what you said.
    As for “flying off the handle” — sod off. You don’t get to tell me when and how to be pissed off. Quite condescending.

  39. Steve
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you, Amanda, that racism is a feminist issue, but I think it’s a feminist issue when it affects women. This racism caused an act of violence to be perpetrated on men.
    As far as “if they did this to a man, imagine what they’d do to a woman,” the racial profile of black women results in a much different threat assessment than does the profiling of black men. So, I’m pretty sure that the police wouldn’t have shot them if they were three women.
    What I’m saying is, it seems to make sense to me that we can’t say that everything that shapes women’s lives (but doesn’t shape women’s lives in a way disproportionate to that in which is shapes mens’) is a feminist issue. They are important issues, issues that must be dealt with, anti-racism issues, class issues, LGBTQ issues, but not necessarily feminist issues.
    I agree with intersectionality. It’s important to look at the ways in which different factors intersect to influence the ways in which patriarchy is experienced. But in this case, all the actors were members of the patriarchy (though obviously with power differentials that were/are real).

  40. hopeisawakingdream
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Steve…this is from Holly at Feministe. The whole article is better and is linked in the description on this site.
    “All feminists should be familiar with victim-blaming and shifting the spotlight away from the executioners, the rapists, the impersonal forces that do their best to eliminate and kill women, the brown folks of the world, the poor, the different.
    The problem is that this disproportionately affects communities of color. The black men who are most often slaughtered by such violence, and all the women and children in their lives too, their loved ones, friends and relatives. A system that is all too eager to exonerate ‘the thin blue line’ and continue business as usual. All of these are feminist issues. Racism must be a feminist issue, for any kind of feminism that counts. Police brutality must be; the biases of the criminal justice system must be.”

  41. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    You may not think that translates to “non innocent criminals deserved it,” but maybe you’re the one who needs to take a closer look at what you said.
    Nobody has said they deserved it. What people have said is that their criminal history has some probative value when determining what happened and who to believe.

  42. hopeisawakingdream
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Also, at the core of Feminism is the idea that what we are told, what is portrayed in the media, and what society values are not what we should accept. Racism and racism in the judicial system is yet another example of something in our society that we should not accept. We cannot expect women to gain all the rights and respect feminists work for while simultaneously overlooking the fact that others are not getting the rights and the respect they too deserve. Stating that it is not a feminist issue because it does not directly affect women ignores the fact that we all have the goal of changing what society values, how institutions work, and how society treats all people…and all of those things are inextricably ingrained in the Sean Bell case. Even if the police acted out of complete “good policy practice”it does not change the fact that this happens on a disproportionate, societal level, just like misogyny. We need to be prepared to stand up when society sucks…and not just when it sucks for women.

  43. Lilitu
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been following this case since it happened and one thing about the defense and the way supporters of the officers discuss the situation keeps driving me insane. The cops thought the victims were armed. They thought that. No one had seen a gun–and how could they, since there wasn’t one–but, hey, it’s okay to shoot people based on the fact that you think they might have a gun.
    Is it crazy of me to want a cop to be really goddamn sure there’s a gun in hand before he starts shooting people?

  44. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    This is not a feminist issue.

  45. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    …you are basically believing a bunch of criminals…it saddens me to see fellow liberals basically believing the testimony of people with police records, who were at a strip club with a horrible reputation…
    Let’s try a little thought experiment:
    …you are basically believing a bunch of prostitutes…it saddens me to see you basically believing the testimony of hookers, who were at a bar with a horrible reputation…over an educated middle-class man with a good job, a family, and a house in the suburbs.
    How does it sound now?

  46. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Well, no, I was referring to the fact that they’re assumed to be racists because the NYPD has a history of racism. If the specific criminal history of the “victims” isn’t supposed to tell us anything about their actions that night, or the credibility of their accounts, then it doesn’t really seem fair to impugn the cops with the general history of their 40,000-person department.
    The difference, of course, is that these guys undisputably did shoot someone, so it would be more accurate to include them in the smaller subcategory of “NYPD officers who have shot and killed unarmed people”.

  47. jessedouglas
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    “Uh, what?? So now being an automobile counts as being armed?? So is any driver automatically considered a threat or is it just young black males?”
    Sojourner, they were not just black men in a car, they were black men in a car that was attempting to run over people. The car was turned from a vehicle into a weapon–it was used as an instrument of injury or potential death.
    The car would have been a weapon had white, brown, yellow, red, purple or chartreuse people been behind the wheel. Put it this way, I’m driving a car at you in a constricted alleyway, you’re justified in doing whatever possible to stop me.

  48. Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    The car would have been a weapon had white, brown, yellow, red, purple or chartreuse people been behind the wheel. Put it this way, I’m driving a car at you in a constricted alleyway, you’re justified in doing whatever possible to stop me.
    So, what exactly would you do if someone pulls a gun on you in a dark alleyway and doesn’t identify himself in any way (even the police testimony conflicted as to whether the officers involved had actually identified themselves as such)? I think it’s rather unsurprising that the reaction was to get the hell out of there, rather than hanging around.

  49. david
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand how people can claim that this particular issue is not a feminist issue. I have come to believe that feminism holds that there are power structures in place that oppress people, primarily women, but in various ways also men. If feminism is the movement that is trying to get rid of patriarchy and structures of oppression for everyone, then in seems to me that we should take hold of every example we can get and yell about it.
    We are not supposed to be having an oppression Olympic, the goal is to get rid of patriarchy and all the problems it causes, not to prove that women or men suffer more because of it, but to end all suffering and oppression. Am I saying that feminist blogs should start focusing all their attention on when men suffer from patriarchy or sexism or anything like that, no, of course not, that is silly. But how does pointing out that patriarchy hurts men too do anything but add another thing to the huge list of why we hate patriarch.
    Also, it is our wonderful blogers who post articles like this that keep, or at least should keep, people from calling this site sexist. If men being oppressed by patriarchy was never a feminist issue because no women were involved, then I can definitely see why people would call feminism sexist, or at least one sided. I don’t think that men have the right to come in yelling and screaming about how men aren’t talked about, but that doesn’t mean that the issues men face shouldn’t be talked about or brought up. Men and women are in this together, and neither gender is going to get out of suffering due to patriarchy unless we get out together. Women’s issues are men’s issues, and men’s issues are women’s issues. Any other way and things will never be equal.

  50. atheistwoman
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    I would just like to say that the hyper masculine violence displayed by the police is also a feminist issue. The institutional acceptability of such violence is also a feminist issue.

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