Posted by: Castan Centre | January 11, 2017

NYPD accountability?

By Amy Myers

ramarley

On Thursday 15th December I went into the belly of the beast, the internal police accountability court at 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan. Myself and some staff from CCR were there, alongside Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) and Standing up for Racial Justice (SURJ). We wanted to pack the court room to seek justice for Ramarley Graham and to stand in solidarity with his family. February 2nd will mark 5 years since NYPD officer Richard Haste stormed into 18 year old Ramarley’s home and shot him him in the chest in front of his grandmother and 6 year old brother. Ramarley was unarmed.  Haste will not face criminal charges.

A CCR staff member that I attended with told me they had never been to a hearing at the internal departmental court before because they are usually conducted without public notice.  Any accountability mechanism of an institution as powerful as the NYPD that is not held publicly with due notice is obviously highly suspect.

The hearing itself was to set a trial date and to determine whether the sergeants and other officers should be tried at the same time as Haste. The defence attorney, Stuart London, was very keen for the cases to be heard together, probably because it would create bureaucratic hold ups thereby delaying the trial further. London told the judge that cases like this are always tried together. She gently corrected him, stating she herself had tried several cases recently where this was not the case. Then while correcting this misrepresentation, he interrupted her to make a separate point. Usually misstatements and interruptions represent gross disrespect of the court. But this is not a normal court. The judge’s failure to admonish London speaks to the collegiality and bias between the internal NYPD judges and the defence teams that represent deviant NYPD officers.

The full court room sent a clear message to the NYPD that the public is interested in the outcome of this case and that it will be watching the trial set for January 17th-25th very closely.  Unfortunately that trial is not even a murder trial, as you might expect, but rather a trial to determine if Richard Haste should be stripped of his job. In the 5 years since the incident Haste has received a pay increase. The disrespect this represents for the Graham family is immense. The lack of police accountability in this country is astonishing.  Though of course in Australia the police are equally untouchable.

Standing with Ramarley’s sister Leona Virgo at the press conference afterwards was heart wrenching but also galvanising. I took strength from seeing her commitment to fighting institutional complacency and corruption on behalf of her brother. I will be observing the trial from the 17th of January. This coincides with Trump’s inauguration, so it will most certainly be entirely eclipsed in the media, further reinforcing how little the NYPD cares about holding its officers accountable.

As we head into the trial next week there are still questions lingering, such as what exactly are the specific charges against Haste and the other two officers who were in the house? Why has there been little push for civilian witnesses, such as Ramarley’s grandmother and the landlords’s son? And why did a police officer take a list of  the names of myself and all of the members of the public attending court that day, against their regular procedure?


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