It was blustery cold outside; 17 degrees I think. But I was present, in the church’s basement, when New York City’s top cop, Commissioner Bill Bratton was brave to admit to a mostly black audience in Jamaica, queens, at the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York for a Black History month event, February 2015, that police played a part in some of the darkest moments in black history. The worst parts of black history were possible due to the racist culture and nature of the police. Slavery, The United States original and greatest sin (colonizing Indians on reservations came later), sat on a foundation that was codified by laws—LAWS !!! And then enforced by the police, slave catcher, etc. He went on to discuss how Peter Stuyvesant, a Dutch settler used black slave labor to build New Amsterdam (now called Manhattan), then he build a police force. He acknowledged the distrust seeded historically by the role of police in enforcing laws that were the foundation of slavery and Jim Crow discrimination. And he talked about the risk that attitudes born of policing neighborhoods where most crimes are committed by blacks can unconsciously harden into bias against all blacks. And ever since then, the stories of police and black citizens have been intertwined, again and again…and it was always bloody, most times, ending in death. I started to cry. A stranger—parishioner patted my shoulder to calm me down!!!!

After a very brief pause, Bratton’s measured words continued. He denied that the NYPD had any institutionalized policies against communities of color, especially black people. I wanted to scream BULLS#@T!! He went on to say that he recognizes the relationship with communities hardest hit by crime need to improve. And that the goal is, to make the city a place where working class folks in neighborhoods afflicted by violence don’t get treated any differently than working class folks in neighborhoods where shots don’t ring out. Bratton said that there’s no room in NYC for biased cops. But he makes no mention of how mandatory sentencing guidelines penalize blacks more severely, nor the ever-widening income gap between blacks and whites, or the real elephant in the room: how police aggression against minorities (I take issue with us being called minorities, when clearly we’re the majority, but I digress) is proving increasingly lethal all the time now, and lacking accountability. The relationship between police and Blacks is destructively fraught with grievance and blame. THIS MUST END!!!!! But when?

Bratton can start by enlisting police department heads, to root out officers who treat blacks differently from others they police. Unless he takes action to end the abusive ‘Broken Windows’ policies and other unequal policing that only targets certain communities with aggression and enforcement, and hold officers accountable when they unduly brutalize and unjustly kill in communities of color, he too will be judged poorly by history…similar to Rudy Giuliani. It won’t be easy to convince blacks that the NYPD takes claims of discrimination, disrespect and abuse seriously, or to persuade cops to examine and, where necessary, change their behavior…and hey, what about resurrecting the policy that Michael Bloomberg wanted cops to live within the five boroughs and among the people that they police? Perhaps then and ONLY then, they can foster a relationship with people in the community begin to see that we’re not savages to be mistreated!!! That we’re just like them…PEOPLE!strong> That would be a start.