Killing American Citizens Without Trial: The NYPD Way

The New York City Police Department is always ahead of the curve. They have aspirations to be a domestic surveillance service–after all, why should the FBI have all the fun?–and to secure all the budget increases and prestige that goes with it. Besides, don’t the movies tell us that ‘secret agents’ always get all the chicks? It also has international aspirations, which will suitably ratchet up its glamour quotient. Thus we heard last year about the NYPD’s collaboration with Israeli police, and the opening of a branch in Israel. This would considerably enhance the NYPD’s grab-bag of tricks pertaining to searching and frisking, especially when dealing with a hostile, recalcitrant subject population. Not that they don’t already have considerable experience with the good ‘ol up-against-the-wall-spread-your-legs move.

There is another area in which the NYPD have long been known as trailblazers. While the nation is agog with frenetic debate about the use of drones to kill American citizens without trial or due process on American soil, and law professors, bloggers, and sometimes Republican lawmakers, talk themselves hoarse about its ramifications, the NYPD with little fanfare, and plenty of ammunition, has been doing the same for many years: offing American citizens with nary the hint of either. Suspect identified; suspect shot. Cap in the ass, cap in the back, cap in the head. One more down, several–not yet identified but surely out there–to go.

This remarkably efficient procedure, directed primarily against American citizens of skin hues that approximate those that have met such a fate thus far–one of whom, it must be said, shares my first name–has not been conducted on distant, sandy, parched lands littered with shimmering mirages. Rather, these dispatches have been carried out in the midst of American cities, in urban landscapes.

To that list of urban spots, soon to be marked with flowers, candles, wreaths, and photographs of teenaged boys, we can now add East Flatbush, where, on the night of March 9th, Kimani Gray, all of sixteen years old, went down after being shot at eleven times. Seven bullets found their mark; four from the back. He seems to have made a threatening move; perhaps he had a gun. But he does not seem to have used it, if he had one. He’s dead though. Just another casualty in the ‘jungle out there.’ The officers who shot him are on ‘administrative duty.’ Perhaps this is NYPD code for all the paperwork they will now have to do in detailing the expenditure of ammunition and the cleaning charges incurred on their firearms.

There will be demonstrations; the mayor and the police commissioner will call for calm; there will be calls to not rush to judgment (although no calls to not shoot so damn fast); the slow–very slow!–wheels of police procedure and perhaps state justice will grind. At the end of it all, there will still be grieving parents. And one more photo added to the placards that will be observed the next time a march is held to protest the NYPD’s killing of yet another brown or black man in New York City.

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