Diallo Incident One Officers Perspective Essay Research

Diallo Incident; One Officers Perspective Essay, Research Paper Craig H. Brockman Instructor: Eric Becker College Writing 221624 23 April 2000 The Diallo Incident; One Officers Perspective

Diallo Incident; One Officers Perspective Essay, Research Paper

Craig H. Brockman

Instructor: Eric Becker

College Writing 221624

23 April 2000

The Diallo Incident; One Officers Perspective

In the quiet post-midnight hours of February 4, 1999, 41 shots rang out in the entry vestibule of a South Bronx apartment house. Within seconds, a young man laid dead, four policemen standing over his lifeless body. A 22-year-old immigrant from West Africa was the unfortunate victim. The police officers: four white men from the New York City Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit (SCU). And almost before daylight could illumine the city’s vast tract of high-rise businesses and low-rise brownstones, there came the first calls of “Police Brutality,” “Racism,” even “Murder.”

But were these four officers, who together fired 41 shots at an unarmed young man, indeed, guilty as charged? Or was this shooting, as the officers would attempt to explain, a tragedy of the greatest possible human dimensions? Did the media ask the right questions and act in a responsible manner? Did the local politicians act in a responsible manner? And were they inappropriate actions or were they appropriate for the situation? Has society changed that much?

Do we, society, take the word of the media’s insight, and follow people who thrive on media attention? Who are the real prosecutors? Who makes the decision to condemn the actions of four police officers? Do we prosecute the officers of a police department who were trained to do what they did?

Has anyone of these so-called experts ever looked into the past situations of men and women in the police department? And then ask the question: “Why did they (the police) shoot that unarmed man?” Has the police department trained the police officers the proper way? Or will the police departments around the country now train police officers to become less aggressive, giving way for an officer to worry about jail time and the loss of his financial status?

Will this lead the police to turn a “blind-eye” in order to not get involved, and avoid their names being the target of political and community leaders? These are questions to be asked and answered. But the real questions should be asked to the people that care about their communities. These questions should not be asked to the followers of these self proclaimed community leaders who possibly couldn’t care less about the quality of life that surrounds their community, some of who live in another state, and may not concern themselves with “the pursuit of happiness” of the people that live in that community, but the media attention they can receive.

This is one officers perspective, a perspective that some may not agree with, but it is honest, it is true, and it is heart wrenching.

This is no hype, no media propaganda. This is the view of an incident that happened on a Bronx street on a winter’s night in 1999.

Hopefully this will be a thought-provoking view, for not only the reader, but also the author. Just ask yourself these questions that I have posted, and I hope that you will understand my perspective.

In the early morning hours of February 4, 1999 a tragedy occurred which would eventually separate the people of City of New York and its police department.

On this morning, four members of the New York City Police Departments Street Crime Unit {SCU} were on patrol in the Bronx within the confines of the 43rd Precinct: a precinct in a neighborhood that is considered a high crime area. The four officers on patrol were: Police Officer Sean Carroll, 36, Police Officer Kenneth Boss, 28, Police Officer Edward McMellon, 27, and Police Officer Richard Murphy, 27.

These four officers would, on this morning, come in contact with Mr. Amadou Diallo, 22, an African immigrant who now lived in the Bronx.

On this morning, slightly after twelve midnight, the four officers were assigned to plainclothes and had an unmarked radio motor patrol car (RMP) as their patrol vehicle; this is standard operation for the SCU. Their job is to keep an eye on the street for criminal behavior and prevent crimes when possible.

The officers drove down the block of Wheeler Avenue at about this time of the morning. P.O. Carroll, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, looked to his right and saw what appeared to be a man peering through the vestibule area of 1157 Wheeler Ave. P.O. Carroll knew from past crime patterns that when push-in robberies are committed, a lookout is usually placed on the outside of the building, while one or two men ring a doorbell. When the tenant opens the door, the perpetrators push in and rob, rape, and sometimes they will kill the tenant. These types of crime patterns have always had some type of force used. The force sometimes will be physical, and in a lot of situations guns are used. The lookout will alert the ?perps? when a police officer or other persons approach.

At this time, P.O. Carroll told P.O. Boss, the driver of the rmp, to stop the rmp. P.O. Carroll exited the rmp, and as he approached the building, with his police shield displayed on his chest hanging from around his neck. P.O. Carroll instructed Mr. Diallo to stop. Mr. Diallo turned away from P.O. Carroll placing his back towards the officer. After being told another time from P.O. Carroll to turn around, Mr. Diallo stood facing the far left hand corner of the vestibule. This is when P.O. Carroll instructed Mr. Diallo to stop again and show his hands; Mr. Diallo at first did not comply verbally or physically. Suddenly, Mr. Diallo quickly turned in a counterclockwise motion with his right hand extended just above his waist, and in his hand was a black object, an object in which P.O. Carroll believed to be a gun.

The positioning of the other officers was also detrimental to this tragedy. P.O. Boss was just about left of and behind P.O. Carroll at the time P.O. Carroll ascended the couple of steps into the vestibule. P.O. McMellon and P.O. Murphy were approaching the building at the same time as P.O.?s Carroll and Boss entered the vestibule. P.O. Boss also believed he saw a gun, when at this time P.O. Carroll seeing the black object yelled ?Gun?, a common practice used by officers to inform other officers of a threat in the least amount of time. In fear for his life, and the life of his partners, P.O. Carroll fired his weapon at Mr. Diallo. P.O. Boss was also firing, when he attempted to back out of the vestibule and tried to get to cover. P.O. Boss described the scene during his testimony during direct examination: “I saw Mr. Diallo — he was in the back of the vestibule — he was crouched, he was down low — and he had his hand out — and I seen a gun — in his hand?. P.O. McMellon had run up to the vestibule and fired four shots. P.O. McMellon also saw Mr. Diallo crouching with an outstretched hand, after firing his shots, P.O. McMellon fell backwards down the few steps that led to the vestibule, he landed on his buttocks, breaking his tailbone. P.O.?s Boss and Murphy thought that McMellon was shot. All at the same time P.O. Murphy had fired five shots at Mr. Diallo in order, because at this time P.O. Murphy still felt that Mr. Diallo was a threat and also saw what appeared to be a gun in Mr. Diallo?s right hand, it subsequently turned out to be a black wallet in Mr. Diallo?s palm.

This entire episode lasted approximately five seconds, and a total of 41 shots were fired, with 19 of those shots hitting Mr. Diallo.

Within hours of this tragedy there was public outrage led by the infamous Reverend Al Sharpton. Without any hesitance, Rev. Sharpton was reaching out to the media and calling the four officers murderers. Without due process being admitted to the officers, the reverend had these officers tried, convicted, and hung.

Mayor Giuliani quickly came to the defense of the officers as he usually does. He asked the media and the public to give the officers the benefit of the doubt until the investigation was completed.

What followed was a protest in front of One Police Plaza (N.Y.P.D. Headquarters) by influential people in the political and celebrity world.

Much has been said about the four officers training. Also questioned was their technique used on the street for stopping and questioning people they reasonably suspect, have, are currently committing, or are about to commit a crime.

These are four police officers that went on patrol one night, and followed department guidelines, tactics, and the laws of New York State, but they made a mistake, a very big mistake. They acted on their instincts, they thought that they were going to die, and they acted in the manner that they thought was appropriate. They fired their weapons until they felt the threat was eliminated, as they, and the rest of the police officers in the N.Y.P.D. are trained to do.

The big question on everyone?s mind was ?why 41 shots?? Another question was ?how come they just didn?t shoot that thing out of his hand?? (That?s always one of my favorites).

The question that should be asked in all this is, ?If I were in the position of the officers involved with the Diallo shooting, and given the training and past experience, would I have reacted in the same manner?? Your answer would probably be ?I don?t know?. There are police officers with twenty or thirty years on the job that will answer that question with ?I don?t know?.

Let me share a very terrible incident to you. This is an incident that may have the reader of this essay consider the reasons why a police officer does what he or she was trained to do.

On February 28, 1997 in North Hollywood California, there was an incredible shootout that the L.A.P.D. had with two very well armed and very well bodily-protected bank robbers.

During this shootout the officers were unable to put these robbers down. The two bank robbers were so well protected by body armor, that they actually stood in the middle of the street firing at the officers while reloading from the trunk of their ?getaway car?. The officers shot, as we are trained to do, at center mass of the body. But to no avail these cretin?s were not going to be put down easy, the bullets were bouncing off the robber?s own bullet resistant vests. One was eventually stopped by a shot to the head; the other eventually succumbed to his wounds also.

The L.A.P.D. and other departments learned a valuable lesson that day on tactics.

Almost immediately the N.Y.P.D. changed its? training at the shooting range. We have always been taught to shoot for center mass. The torso is the largest target for an officer to aim at without actually using the sight of the officers? weapon. After being in a shootout myself in 1993, I can surely attest that there is no time to use sights. This is why we have a sniper unit (Emergency Service Unit), they at least have the luxury of setting up, taking aim, and getting the O.K. to shoot a dangerous felon.

When officers arrived at Rodmans Neck in the Bronx, where the N.Y.P.D. shooting range is located, officers are placed in a situation where they were being told to shoot for the head of the suspect and continue firing, then run at the subject, even sometimes from the kneeling position with our hands behind our heads, as if we were in a hostage situation. We were to fire and reload as quickly as possible and get back into the fight and survive. This was the new curriculum for the N.Y.P.D. that was the result of the L.A.P.D. shootout. The instructors? job at the shooting range was to shake the officer up as much as possible while the officer reloaded and fired. Instructors would stand behind the officers, not just yelling, but firing M-14 semi-automatic rifles near the ears of the officer to simulate a gun battle, but to also get the adrenaline of the officer going as quickly as possible. It works!

As a highway patrolman who works alone, these exercises were conducted with a 3:1 ratio. Running along side the highway officer were three instructors? yelling and screaming. After being short on breath, you are to fire a shotgun four times, and then fire your handgun immediately following the expenditure of your shotgun rounds 16 times, and reload. This is in addition to the training area we call the ?Fun House?. The ?Fun House? is not any fun at all. It is a place where the officer recruit has a simulated death while attending the academy. The inside of this building looks like a rat-infested tenement. The recruits mission is to die. The recruit cannot win; it is merely a training plan to show the officers? weaknesses, and strengths of the officers? adversaries.

As you walk down a narrow hallway on a simulated radio run of a man with a gun, the lights flicker, doors pop open, actors run from apartment to apartment. All this time the officers? peers are looking at him or her, they are perched on top of the walls, they stand on three-foot high catwalk. As the officer enters the apartment, the officer observes a man and a woman standing in the middle of a living room. The couple is arguing with each other. The man fits the description of the person with the gun. This is where the instructors grade the officer. What will the officer recruit do? Common sense would have the officer tactically approach the man with the gun, and frisk him to eliminate a possible threat. But since the officer is a recruit at this time, and recruits don?t want to be yelled at by the instructor, the recruit decides to quell the situation by just talking with the couple. When, bank–bang?the officer recruit and his/her partner have just been shot and killed by that male subject. The yelling now begins by the instructor on why the officer recruit did not eliminate a threat and do a quick legal exterior frisk of the male. ?Would that have been aggressive?? the instructor would ask. The answer would be no. The law has been spelled out for situations like this that permits a frisk on the subject, given this was a radio run and the communications operator is considered a reliable informant, giving the officers the description of the perpetrator. True the operator gets the description from an outside source, but the officers get the information from the 911 operators, which make the operators our informants.

The officers? involved in the Diallo incident are experienced police officers. These are officers who have been placed in life and death situations day in and day out. In a police department of 40,000 police officers there is a hero everyday. Babies are being delivered, CPR is being administered, and a lonely old lady just called 911 with a false call, just to have an officer respond so she has a person to talk to. However this is not what the public is told. These types of events just don?t sell newspapers.

Are there rotten apples in the N.Y.P.D.? Absolutely, as there are in every profession. For the most part, police officers themselves would like to have those rotten apples thrown off the department. Because of the officers that abuse their power, it makes it that much harder for the majority of the officers, the honest hardworking police officers to do their jobs. These four police officers are part of the majority.

The closing statement during the trial of these four officers, Chief Prosecuting Assistant District Attorney Eric Warner stated: ? [The defendants didn?t come] on duty that night with the intent to kill Amadou Diallo or anybody else. But when they got out of that car in front of Amadou Diallo?s home in the early morning of February 4th, they made the conscious decision to shoot him?

That is a statement that is true and false. Did these officers intend to shoot him when they got out of their car? The evidence proved that as a falsehood. Did they intend to shoot Mr. Diallo when they felt their lives were in danger? You better believe they did.

As for this terrible unfortunate incident on February 4, 1999, this wasn?t a crime, nor was it a racist action; this was a tragedy. This was a tragedy for five men, five children of God.