On a recent evening, my 7-year-old asked if I knew what “metacognition” meant. I smiled, not because I did not know–truth is, I suspected what it meant from having long ago taken a college course about the Greek and Latin roots of English words–but because she looked so smug thinking she stumped daddy.
Thirteen years after Amadou Diallo’s blood indelibly stained the steps and lobby of everybody’s building, the Bronx, Kenneth Boss–one of his executioners–got his gun back. Raymond “Killer” Kelly made it so. I read it on the front page of a New York rag. That decision, and another made by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, delineates the chasm between the Police Department as run by Kelly and the citizens he is charged with protecting.
Boss got his gun despite losing federal and state lawsuits seeking to walk the streets of New York armed once again. Police Commis, sioner “Killer” Kelly succumbed to the relentless pressure in the ether. He presides over a department that plants distrust among New Yorkers and waters it intermittently with unjustified shootings of African-American men to provide a false sense of security. He did not have enough moral courage to refrain from spitting on Diallo’s grave.
With his discretionary decision, no thought of red blood spilled by his department, no feeling in his heart for what his decision would mean to the disinherited of this city, Kelly again gave his imprimatur to his department’s belief that you can take life with impunity. He knows no public official or otherwise will say a word. Kelly is Teflon itself.
I ask you, Mr. Kelly, can Reynaldo Cuevas get his life back? Can Timothy Stansbury walk among us again? Can Sean Bell hold his babies and say, “Metacognition means thinking about thinking”? Can Constance Malcolm stop wailing, let go of her belly and hug her son Ramarley? And what of Juanita Young and her boy Malcolm Ferguson?
Can any family–Darrius Kennedy’s, Mohamed Bah’s, Waldyn Jackson’s, nine innocent New Yorkers at the Empire State Building on Aug. 24–get an explanation from you as to your department’s propensity to let bullets fly and make up answers later? I pause here to apologize for all the names left off this list–names that I knew but have forgotten. Souls that hearken from the grave and scream that “Killer” Kelly must go. Hell, even the head of BP resigned for killing fish. Surely, the lives of us New Yorkers are worth as much as the lives of fish!
Last week, Robert Johnson decided that his prosecutors will no longer genuflect when they see an affidavit from a police officer in a trespass case. His office now requires the officers to come in and speak to an assistant district attorney. These are cases that mostly arise from two areas: the NYPD’s Clean Halls program, and the dirtiest little open secret in New York City–the subjugation of tenants living in New York City Housing Authority buildings.
Clean Halls is an agreement with private building owners to allow the NYPD to access their buildings and patrol the hallways. The city’s housing projects are tantamount to South Africa’s pass system from yesteryear. The children and young adolescents living in them are not free. They are subjected daily to demands for identification and forced to explain why they have no papers, hauled off to court to be given state ID numbers, fingerprinted and rudely introduced to what “Killer” Kelly believes is their destiny: the criminal justice system.
Johnson had the temerity to say that a police officer must actually explain to an assistant district attorney the facts of what happened. Johnson’s new position came to light came from documents submitted in Floyd v. the City of New York et al., a class-action lawsuit pending in Federal District Court challenging as unconstitutional the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program. Newsflash: Stop-and-frisk as practiced by the NYPD is unconstitutional. Always was, is, and always will be. I believe the court will so find.
Upon hearing of Johnson’s decision, there was howling from City Hall and the carpet ripped as his honor walked across the floor barefoot. Crime will increase, he bellowed. In lockstep, One Police Plaza’s media machine started revving up
They need to understand what my 7-year-old gets. You must think about how you think. If they did, they would appreciate that Johnson took a step toward better justice for many New Yorkers. It is much easier to weed out trash–here I am talking about the message and not the messenger–if an officer has to explain why he stopped an individual to a discerning assistant district attorney. This assumes, of course, that the assistant can tell when a police officer is not truthful.
Mind you, I’m a frequent critic of Johnson. He still has work to do regarding his staff of assistants. He could begin by making sure he has prosecutors who understand the Bronx and its people and who know when something doesn’t pass the smell test. Too many of them are blond, rosy-cheeked, still moist behind the ears and without a smidgen of real-world experience. Further and immediately, he may want to put his best people on the prosecution of Richard Haste for the killing of Ramarley Graham. The assistant district attorney currently prosecuting Haste famously lost the Amadou Diallo case. I’m just saying.
Metacognition also means that giving Boss his gun back–even if he is about to retire, as I suspect–reopens a wound and reinforces what many believe about Kelly. He is the gatekeeper of a system that says if you are Black and male in this city, your very existence hangs precariously at the end of an asp, the barrel of a gun and the whim of the bearers of these implements. Some say he aspires to walk on the very same carpet as hizzoner. I say the department’s failures reflect leadership or lack thereof. Kelly must go. It go so!
Neville Mitchell is an attorney and a candidate to represent Bronx District 12 on the City Council.