Police brutality: An all-too-familiar story

WW photo: Joseph Piette

A 22-year-old man looking toward the future has his life taken from him in a split second by a police officer’s bullet. Sound familiar?

This time the victim was Noel Polanco, a Dominican youth from the South Bronx in New York City. He was stopped by the police in the early morning of Oct. 4 on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens for allegedly driving in an erratic manner.

In a tragic twist of irony, Polanco was hoping that his training as an Army reservist would lead to a career as a police officer.

Diane Deferrari, a passenger in his car, publicly stated that at precisely the same time Polanco was told to put his hands on the steering wheel, he was fatally shot in the abdomen by detective Hassan Hamdy. Despite claims by the detective that he thought Polanco was reaching for a gun, no weapons were found in the car.

On the other hand, Hamdy had been cited in two federal civil lawsuits, in 2001 and 2008, for police abuse. More than $500,000 was awarded to the plaintiffs.

Deferrari blamed “police road rage” for the shooting, since Polanco supposedly weaved in front of two trucks belonging to the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit on the parkway.

Polanco’s mother, Cecelia Reyes, wasn’t notified by the police of her son’s death until nine hours after he was killed.

So now Noel Polanco’s name has been added to an already long list of victims who have lost their lives to police brutality in New York City — Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Patrick Dorismond, Malcolm Ferguson, Anthony Baez, Michael Stewart, 66-year-old grandmother Eleanor Bumpurs and 10-year-old Clifford Glover. Most of the victims were Black. None of the police officers involved in any of these and many more senseless killings have been convicted of murder. Therefore, none of them has spent any time behind bars.

There are reasons for this kind of injustice.

The NYPD and the 1%

Out of all the big U.S. cities, New York City stands virtually alone when it comes to police violence and abuse. The facts substantiate this claim. New York City has the country’s largest police department, with 34,000 uniformed officers and 51,000 employees. The NYPD is almost three times larger than the police force in the city behind it — Chicago. With a population of 8 million, there are officially 4.18 cops for every 1,000 people in New York City.

According to the New York City American Civil Liberties Union, in 2011 more than 685,000 people — close to 90 percent of them Black and Latino/a — were victims of stop-and-frisk, the NYPD’s racial-profiling policy. These stops resulted in a very small percentage of arrests.

Salon.com reported Sept. 28 that the 2013 budget for the NYPD is an outrageous $4.6 billion, which is 15 percent of the city’s overall budget. The article stated, “In addition to ticketing minorities for standing outside of their homes, spying on Muslims who live in New Jersey, abusing protesters, and gunning down black teens over weed, the NYPD has expanded into a massive global anti-terror operation with surveillance and military capabilities unparalleled in the history of U.S. law ­enforcement.”

There is one glaring reason why New York City is home to the most expensive, repressive apparatus in the U.S. and a lot of countries combined: The city is also the home base of Wall Street, the main artery to the lifeblood of worldwide monopoly finance capital. Simply put, the NYPD has expanded its monstrous reach in order to protect the private interests and property of the 1% in opposition to the 99%.

The bottom line is that under capitalist society, which is based on the haves and have-nots, the police are not only above the law. As the profits of the 1% have expanded, so have the powers of the police to act as judge, jury and executioner. This is the norm.

The lives of African-American and Latino/a youth have become expendable in the eyes of the banks and corporations and their armed protectors — especially during an economic crisis, where there are no jobs and attacks on public education are aimed at working class and oppressed youth. This is precisely why so many youth like Noel Polanco join the U.S. military — not to kill and or be killed in wars.

As this unprecedented global capitalist economic crisis deepens, oppressed communities in New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and elsewhere are under police occupation to keep a tight lid on the potential for righteous rebellion against intolerable ­conditions.

What is the answer to ending the reign of police terror and to win real justice for youth like Noel Polanco? For sure, it won’t be the outcome of the November elections. It will be a united, independent struggle for people’s power — organized block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood and city by city.

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