Sharpton and activists react to police union call for citizens to help cops
SAEED SHABAZZ | 8/30/2018, midnight
Aug. 21, a New York tabloid might have said it best in its opening paragraph: “A police union [Sergeants Benevolent Association] wants to turn random bystanders into vigilantes-for-hire by offering $500 to any civilian who helps cops wrestle down suspects who are resisting arrest.”
Aug. 23, the Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights leader and president of the National Action Network did not mince his words in reacting to the SBA proposal: “We at National Action Network are disgusted but not at all surprised by Ed Mullins [president of the SBA], State Senator Marty Golden [D-Bklyn] and the entire Sergeants Benevolent Association’s most recent reminder to Black and Brown New Yorkers that not only do they not care about our lives, but they are actively seeking to take our lives. This attempt to exacerbate vigilante violence against Black and Brown people and now monetarily incentivize that violence is unconscionable.
“State Senator Golden’s attempt to codify this regressive legislation resembles some of this country’s most shameful Jim Crow laws is despicable and will be fought at every measure. We are emboldened to act and resist this blatant and poorly veiled attempt to devalue the lives of Black and Brown people and put them in the hands of civilians.”
According to news reports, Golden, a retired cop, plans to introduce a new “Good Samaritan” bill that shields civilians from liability. Observers say that lawmakers such as Golden believe the current Good Samaritan Law does not protect citizens who might want to help cops making arrests. Golden did not respond to an AmNews request for comment.
“I think it is absurd,” Assemblyman Charles Barron (D-Bklyn) told the AmNews. “If they want to give a reward out, it should be to a police officer who is willing to identify these killer cops. We don’t need to be telling civilians that they can get a reward for turning against our people.”
Charles Billups, chairperson of Grand Council of Guardians said the proposal is “stupid.” What they are doing is agitating civilians to get involved in the street, and it is going to cause more harm than good. “This is for white people, not us,” Billups stated. He agrees with Sharpton that the SBA wants to initiate vigilantism.
Billups said that Black cops he has spoken to think the idea is very stupid and that “they want civilians to get in the middle of doing our jobs.”
He added, “Just picture a Black man holding down a white man. The perception is still that we are the wrong ones.”
Damon K. Jones, Westchester Representative Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, said the idea is ludicrous.
“They are going to be shooting more Black cops,” he said. “The bottom line is that NYPD officers are poorly trained.”
Civil liberties organizations such as the NYCLU are taking a negative view of the SBA proposal. “This is a misguided and dangerous,” NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn said in an email message to the AmNews. “Rewarding civilians to throw themselves into arrests just invites vigilantism and will lead to people getting hurt.”
SBA did not answer phone calls from the AmNews.