Politrix: The Thin Blue Line

Sean Bell’s 3 year old daughter, Jada, cries at a rally for her father. Image via Reuters/Eric Thayer.

I usually only come to y’all on Tuesday, but I had to break form and speak out today. How do I begin to express how disappointed I am with today’s acquittal on all eight charges for the officers (overseers) tried in the murder of Sean Bell, the groom-to-be who was killed in New York on November 25, 2006.

Perhaps it’s my fault. We’ve already established that I’m an optimist; maybe I got a little carried away with the idea of justice when three of the five cops involved where indicted back in March 2007. Maybe it’s wrong to expect that our society has evolved to the point that when cats fire 50 shots into a car where there are absolutely no weapons, they might actually go to jail for their deeds. Silly, silly chick.

No matter how many times I turn this situation over in my mind, it comes down to one thing: color. Yeah, I know two of the cops charged with Manslaughter 1 and 2 (Gescard F. Isnora and Michael Oliver) and Reckless Endangerment (Marc Cooper) are black. No, this isn’t an issue of black and white; it’s an issue of blue. Quite simply, those who take on the job of maintaining order in our society are granted massive leeway when it comes to how they carry out their tasks. So you killed a 12-year-old on the street? It’s okay, that toy gun he was playing with looked mighty real! Aw man, you gunned down a dude on his wedding day because you thought you heard someone in the vicinity mention a gun? Eh, it’s cool. He had been drinking in a filthy strip club and that dude over there might have had a gun—he had to be stopped.

There is a fraternal bond deeply embedded in our law enforcement system that prevents members from doing penance when they mess up—no matter whose lives they destroy. It doesn’t get more self-centered than that, as evidenced by the statement from Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, who, following the verdict, called the murder a “tragedy” for cops who must live with the job that they do each day. “We still have police officers that have to deal with the fact that a death was involved in their case,” he continued. Wow.

So is the lesson to be more careful about what people standing near us say outside of clubs? To not drink and get behind the wheel (well, yeah, of course, however tangentially)? To sit down and shut up and be glad this case made it beyond the grand jury? To not trust in our justice (just us) system? Ding ding ding! But the Bell family is looking to file civil charges and possibly appeal today’s decision in federal court. So I guess we’ll sit tight and wait for our next chance at redemption…

If you like Kenrya’s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.

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