Special to the AmNews
Thursday, Feb. 5. the Amadou Diallo Foundation sponsored a conference at Columbia University titled “How to Improve Police-Community Relations.” According to the press release, the event was held in hopes that the “conference will enable the board members of ADF and the public to listen to views and recommendations expressed by current and former members of the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies and community residents to improve police-community relations.” The panel at the conference consisted of former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins, who is the ADF board chair; retired NYPD Detective Graham Weatherspoon; civil rights and liberty lawyer Norman Siegel; and Kadiatou Diallo, Amadou Diallo’s mother.
The Amadou Diallo Foundation was formed in 1999, after the death of Amadou Diallo. The 23-year-old was brutality gunned down 16 years ago by four officers, who fired 41 shots. The officers claimed they were merely defending themselves, as they thought Diallo was reaching for a gun when he was actually taking out his wallet. The case was moved upstate, where the officers were ultimately acquitted. The thought of an unarmed man being brutality killed by police and receiving no justice caused an outcry in the city and the country as a whole that called for the end of police brutality.
According to the Amadou Diallo Foundation, its purpose is “to promote racial healing through activities, including programs in the public schools, that seek to diminish prejudice and racial conflict and enhance police-community relations.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams gave the keynote address. Before entering politics, Adams served as a captain in the NYPD. He advocated for an understanding of the roles that officers play and the tools that are needed to fulfill that role, stating, “The role of the police is to keep order and to correct conditions … We have to supply our officers with the right tools. When you supply people with the right tools, they have to use the tools they are given.”
While speaking on the riots and protests in Ferguson, Mo., Adams, who promotes a nonviolent approach, was interrupted by a heckler, who yelled that Adams was “more worried about a gas station than the bodies piling up on the streets.” After the young man was escorted out of the room for disrupting the conference, Adams responded, saying, “We will never impact change if we cannot sit down and talk to each other.” Adding, “Being loud can’t make you proud, you must be solid.”
Speaking on improving police-community relations, Dinkins stated, “Police officers need to know the community and the community needs to know the police officers.” This sentiment was echoed by every panelist throughout the conference.
Said Adams, “When you understand each other, then you can accept each other and respect each other.”
A longer training time for cops, body cameras and car cameras, government transparency, police commissioner elections and removal of the grand jury system were among the solutions discussed by panelists and conference-goers alike, furthering the argument that police-community relations is a complicated issue that cannot be solved overnight. What was not complicated, however, was the clarity and eloquence of Diallo in her opening address, stating that she had to “make sense out of a senseless act.” She continued, saying that the foundation is not anti-police rather “we are for unity—unity between police and community. We need them to help us and save our children.”
As Weatherspoon stated, “Our inhumanity is unparalleled.” Diallo’s sentiment is a reminder for us as a society to keep our humanity when dealing with such important and delicate issues. The essence of the conference was Black lives matter, blue lives matter—all lives matter.