When I was still a member of American Mensa, I ran what was known as a Special Interest Group, or Sig: Social Change and Renewal. It was an attempt to introduce and maintain a level of philosophical inquiry into what was primarily a social organization.
There were two topics I knew I couldn't present without being tackled by kneejerk opinions: abortion and the O.J. Simpson trial. But I did try two that bore unexpectedly disappointing results. One of them was police brutality.
The publicized topics always had a tag line, and I'm not certain I can remember exactly what it was in this case. Living as I did at the time in New York City, I can fairly assume that there was some headlined case being bandied about in the papers that lead me to start the discussion. Anyway...
There was a fair turnout for the group; I would say perhaps seven or eight including a ranking police officer. Being the facilitator, and knowing the largely undigested opinions of many club members, I anticipated trouble. It presented itself right away. Legs akimbo so as to facilitate perhaps a comfortable living room approach to his participation, he declared flatly “There is no police brutality.”
There is a long enough list of victims; the one coming to mind is Amadou Diallo. Most likely an unsuspecting subject of a police pursuit, he was trapped in a apartment building vestibule. Removing a wallet from his pocket, the officers cried “gun” and a series of 41 shots rang out, killing Amadou. There was also the hideously gruesome men's room assault where a police baton was introduced into a man's rectum. These, for me, are the kind of troubling details that are even more troubling left unaddressed.
Here, in Newburgh, the situation is no different: if not police violence, police indifference. I myself have a history of being victimized more than once. The subject of neighborhood harrassment, I was left without the resource of community policing. Too, some years later, and after a diligent course of observation and reflection, I attempted to file a criminal complaint. When I went to the precinct to obtain a copy of the associated report, I was treated to something resembling small scale Vaudeville act. After a slovenly officer pretended an inability to read, a more imposing invidivual came out with the seeming objective of bamboozling me. Left without the necessary information the local District Attorney required, I abandoned my pursuit of justice.
There have been marches, demonstrations, organizing efforts in what seem to me heartbreakingly futile attempts to establish some kind of municipal or community oversight. Right now, we can only hope for opportunities to publicly grieve our losses and voice our rage. Come the revolution, we can hope for much more.