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FRANK SERPICO A NEW YORK CITY COP WHO BROKE THE CODE OF SILENCE

 

A CODE OF SILENCE THAT HAS GOTTEN LOUDER TODAY THEN EVER BEFORE!

                                           

Actor Al Pachino is seen here playing the role of New York City cop Frank Serpico.  The real Serpico is seen leaving the Bronx Courthouse alone after testifying before the Knapp Commission on wide spread police corruption in the department.

 

The story below is a reprint from Frank Serpico as he writes about the continued corruption and today's police brutality 40 years later

 

I call it "Testi-lying." It has been a regular practice in police forces across the United States, at least since I served on the NYPD: Official testimony that is made a part of a police after-action report but is pure lies, an invention.  In the old days police  would carry a "drop knife---an inexpensive weapon cops would bring along on patrol to drop onto or next to suspect that they had taken out so that they could say that he had threaten them.  Today you don't even need to do that; all that you have to do is justify the use of deadly force if you are a police officer is to say that you feared for your life, for whatever reason. If the victim dies, that just means there will one less witness around to contradict the test-lie.  

In the case of Officer Michael Slager of the North Charleston police, it appears he was being extra-carefulto cover his tracks.  Probably he could have gotten away with simply declaring, as he did in the radioed report, that Walter Scott "took my taser," and that would have probably have sufficed to exonerate him.  But Slager having shot Scott eight times in the back--as everyone can see in the now famous video--perhaps felt that he needed a little help explaining what he was up to.  So apparently dropped his Taser next to Scott's body, which would obviously help to make the case that Scott "Took my taster."

 

If you think that what happen in North Charleston is a unique case, its not.  Only recently, in another case, a policewoman in Pennsylvania first Tasered a black man then shot him twice in the back as he lay face down in the snow.  She was chasing him for an expired parking ticket.  There were five seconds between shots.  She said she feared for her life.  It was captured on her own Taser camera.

 

I have been saying this for a long time, ever since I spoke before the Knapp Commission investigating corruption in the NYPD more then 40 years ago: Unless we create an atmosphere where the crooked cop fears the honest cop, and not the other way around, the system will never changed.  Unless honesty is rewarded more often then corruption, the police will lose credibility altogether.  I wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton in 1994 addressing this very issue, saying that honest cops have never been rewarded, and maybe there ought to be a medal for them, he wrote back but nothing change.  Now in the era of citizen videotaping, police credibility is at stake as never before.  If enough testi-lying is uncovered, then who is going to believe the police even when they are telling the truth?  They will be seen as crying wolf.  

 

Until now the shoot first fear of my life mantra has eliminated any cause for concern in the taking of life by police.  When a civilian committs a crime, every nuance is looked at, the better to "throw the book at" the suspect.  When cops err, it is the opposite reaction.  Eyes are averted, aggravating circumstances are ignored.  And now the public is learning about every time a new video tape emerges that undermines the official police story.

 

There is only one solution:  The good cops really have to step up, and the system has to reward them, rather then punish them.  The other day I got a letter from a journalist in Argentina who was complaining about police and judicial corruption there.  I wrote back to him, there are good cops, even where you live, but if the good cops don't want to be painted with the same broad brush as the bad cops, they need to come forward and expose the guys who are doing bad things.                                                 

Instead, you habitually get police union representatives defending these police officers no matter what they do.  Take New York City detective who was caught on camera recently abusing an Uber driver with threats and foul language,  This was truly disgusting behavior. Yet predictably enough the detective union leader, Michael Palladino, was out there making excuses for him, suggesting that, well, it was only one incident, and everyone has a bad day.  " Cops are just like everyone else," he said.  The detective is one of good character .  He really should not be judged by one isolated incident."  What Palladino overlooked was there were numerous other incidents in that officer's file that were not caught on tape.

 

What should the public believe when when everytime the police close ranks like that?  Afterward Police Commissioner William Bratton announced he was removing the detective's shield and placing him temporarily on desk duty while an investigation is conducted .  But this man needs to be demoted to uniform at the very least, or "back in the bag" as we use to say.  Imagine what he is capable of doing under the cover of darkness if he can talk to someone like that in broad daylight.  But will anyone follow up to see if that happens?

 

Its important to make the point that we shouldn't make cops feel that as a whole they are under attack.  There are plenty legitimate incidents where police believe, correctly, that their lives are in danger.  I was in a few of those situations myself during the course of my career.

 

But unless the police forces and society as a whole take action we're not going to be able to distinguish between the legititimate claims and made-up testimony.  And this is not just a phenomenon; the law itself needs to be changed so that when a police officer shoots a suspect in the line of duty, a real investigation is conducted, and by an outside, impartial body.

 

If changes are not made, the age of the citizen videotaping could began to alter forever our society's view of the police officers who protect us.  A long time ago Norman Rockwell painted a famous picture of a friendly neighborhood cop bending down to help a little boy. How much longer will America cling to that image, in the face of images of the kind we saw in North Charleston?

 

                                                                                                                       Frank Serpico is a former New York City detective             

 

 

A TRAIL OF CIVIL RIGHTS AT THE WHITE HOUSE:  IN BLACK & WHITE!

 

 

For all most 4 years we have heard over and over again President Barack Obama say “I am the President of all the people” that would be great if everyone was playing on an “Even Playing field.”   His supporters have become his echo and can be heard saying the exact same thing!  Therefore, they claim he cannot be seen publicly making life better for the poor, the down trodden and people of color in America.  Why should he be any different from any other President?

Especially, with 1% of the population controlling all the wealth in America and in 2013 a white man’s salary still doubles that of a black man.

Listed below are some Presidents who blazed a Civil Rights trail while in office to improve the lives of black people while white.

It has been often been said “If you want to hide something from a black person put it in a book.”  We can now add the World Wide Internet.  The information gathered in this blog can be found there.   

President Harry Truman

A 1947 report by the Truman administration titled To Secure These Rights presented a detailed ten-point agenda of civil rights reforms. In February 1948, the president submitted a civil rights agenda to Congress that proposed creating several federal offices devoted to issues such as voting rights and fair employment practices. This provoked a storm of criticism from Southern Democrats in the run to the national nominating convention, but Truman refused to compromise, saying: "My forebears were Confederates ... but my very stomach turned when I had learned that Negro soldiers, just back from overseas, were being dumped out of Army trucks in Mississippi and beaten."  

Instead of addressing civil rights on a case-by-case need, Truman wanted to address civil rights on a national level. He made three executive orders that eventually became a structure for future civil rights legislation. The first Executive Order 9981 came in 1948, is generally understood to be the act that desegregated the armed services. This was a milestone on a long road to desegregation of the Armed Forces.  After several years of planning, recommendations and revisions between Truman, the Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity and the various branches of the military, Army units finally became racially integrated.

This process was also helped by the pressure of manpower shortages during the Korean War as replacements to previously segregated units could now be of any race.

The second order, also in 1948, made it illegal to discriminate against persons applying for civil service positions based on race. The third executive order, in 1951, established Committee on Government Contract Compliance (CGCC). This committee ensured that defense contractors to the armed forces could not discriminate against a person because of their race.

In retirement however, Truman was less progressive on the issue of race. He described the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches as silly, stating that the marches would not "accomplish a darn thing."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call the "3 Rs": Relief, Recovery, and Reform. That is, Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy to normal levels; and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.

His wife Eleanor became an important connection for his administration to the African-American population during the segregation era.  During Franklin's terms as President, despite his need to placate southern sentiment, she was vocal in her support of the African-American civil rights movement.

Mrs. Roosevelt was outspoken in her support of Marian Anderson in 1939 when the black singer was denied the use of Washington's Constitution Hall and was instrumental in the subsequent concert held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The first lady played a role in racial affairs when she appointed Mary McLeod Bethune as head of the Division of Negro Affairs

President John F. Kennedy

The turbulent end of state-sanctioned racial discrimination was one of the most pressing domestic issues of the 1960s. The Supreme Court of the United States had ruled in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Many schools, especially in southern states, did not obey the Supreme Court's decision. Segregation had also been prohibited by the Court at other public facilities (e.g. buses, restaurants, theaters, courtrooms, bathrooms, and beaches) but continued nonetheless.

Kennedy verbally supported racial integration and civil rights; during the 1960 campaign he telephoned Coretta Scott King, wife of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been jailed while demonstrating for equal access of African-Americans; Kennedy secured the early release of King, which drew additional black support to his candidacy.

Nevertheless, President Kennedy believed the grass roots movement for civil rights would anger many Southern whites and make it more difficult to pass civil rights laws in Congress, which was dominated by conservative Southern Democrats.  He distanced himself from the movement.  He also was more concerned with other issues early in his presidency, e.g. the "Bay of Pigs" fiasco and Southeast Asia. As articulated by brother Robert, the administration's early priority was to "keep the President out of this civil rights mess". As a result, many civil rights leaders viewed Kennedy as lukewarm, especially concerning the Freedom Riders who organized an integrated public transportation effort in the south, and were repeatedly met with violence by whites, including law enforcement both federal and state.

Kennedy assigned federal marshals to protect the Freedom Riders as an alternative to using federal troops or uncooperative FBI agents. Robert Kennedy, speaking for the President, urged the Freedom Riders to "get off the buses and leave the matter to a peaceful settlement in the courts. 

In September 1962, James Meredith enrolled at the University of Mississippi, but was prevented from entering. Attorney General Robert Kennedy responded by sending some 400 U. S. Marshall while President Kennedy reluctantly federalized and sent 3,000 troops after the situation on campus turned violent.  Campus Riots left two dead and dozens injured, but Meredith did finally enroll in his first class. On November 20, 1962, Kennedy signed Executive Order 11063, prohibiting racial discrimination in federally supported housing or "related facilities."

In early 1963, Kennedy related to Martin Luther King, Jr., about the prospects for civil rights legislation: "If we get into a long fight over this in Congress, it will bottleneck everything else, and we will still get no bill." However, civil rights clashes were very much on the rise that year.  

His brother Robert and Ted Sorenson pressed Kennedy to take more initiative on the legislative front.  On June 11, 1963,

President Kennedy intervened when Alabama Governor George Wallace blocked the doorway to the University of Alabama to stop two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from attending. Wallace moved aside only after being confronted by Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and the Alabama National Guard, which had just been federalized by order of the President, and which had hours earlier been under Wallace's command.

That evening Kennedy gave his famous civil rights address on national television and radio, launching his initiative for civil rights legislation - to provide equal access to public schools and other facilities, and greater protection of voting rights. His proposals became part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  

The day ended with the murder of N.A.A.C.P. leader, Megar Evers, at his home in Mississippi. As the president had predicted, the day after his TV speech, and in reaction to it, House Majority leader Carl Albert called to advise him that his two year signature effort in Congress to combat poverty in Appalachia (Area Redevelopment Administration) had been defeated, primarily by the votes of Southern Democrats and Republicans.

Kennedy signed the executive order creating the Presidential Commission on the status of Women on December 14, 1961.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt led the commission. The Commission statistics revealed that women were also experiencing discrimination; their final report documenting legal and cultural barriers was issued in October 1963.  Earlier, on June 10, 1963, Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a federal law amending the Fair Labor Standards Act, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex.

Over a hundred thousand, predominantly African Americans gathered in Washington for the civil rights March on Washington for jobs and freedom on August 28, 1963. Kennedy feared the March would have a negative effect on the prospects for the civil rights bills in Congress, and declined an invitation to speak. He turned over some of the details of the government's involvement to the Dept. of Justice, which channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the six sponsors of the March, including the N.A.A.C.P. and Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). To ensure a peaceful demonstration, the organizers and the President personally edited speeches which were inflammatory and agreed the March would be held on a Wednesday and would be over at 4:00 pm Thousands of troops were placed on standby.

Kennedy watched King's speech on TV and was very impressed. The March was considered a "triumph of managed protest", and not one arrest relating to the demonstration occurred.  Afterwards, the March leaders accepted an invitation to the White House to meet with Kennedy and photos were taken.  Kennedy felt the March was a victory for him as well and bolstered the chances for his Civil Rights bill.

Nevertheless, the struggle was far from over. Three weeks later, a bomb exploded on a Sunday at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham; at the end of the day 4 little girls had died in the explosion and aftermath.  As a result of this resurgent violence, the civil rights legislation underwent some drastic amendments that critically endangered any prospects for passage of the bill, to the outrage of the President.

Kennedy called the congressional leaders to the White House and by the following day the original bill, without the additions, had enough votes to get it out of the House committee.

In 1963, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who hated civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.,  and viewed him as an upstart troublemaker, presented the Kennedy Administration with allegations that some of King's close confidants and advisers were communist. The President was concerned that the allegations, if made public, would derail the Administration's civil rights initiatives.  Robert Kennedy and the President both warned King to discontinue the suspected associations.  But after the associations continued, Robert Kennedy felt compelled to issue a written directive authorizing the FBI to wiretap King and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King's civil rights organization.

Although Kennedy only gave written approval for limited wiretapping of King's phones "on a trial basis, for a month or so," Hoover extended the clearance so his men were "unshackled" to look for evidence in any areas of King's life they deemed worthy.  The wire tapping continued through June 1966 and was revealed in 1968.

President Lyndon B. Johnson

In conjunction with the civil rights movement, Johnson overcame southern resistance and convinced Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed most forms of racial segregation. John F. Kennedy originally proposed the civil rights bill in June 1963.  

He called the congressional leaders to the White House in late October 1963 to line up the necessary votes in the House for passage.  After Kennedy's death, it was Johnson who picked up the torch and pushed the bill through the Senate.  Johnson signed the revised and stronger bill into law on July 2, 1964.  Legend has it that, as he put down his pen, Johnson told an aide, "We have lost the South for a generation", anticipating a coming backlash from Southern whites against Johnson's Democratic Party.

In 1965, he achieved passage of a second civil rights bill, the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination in voting, thus allowing millions of southern blacks to vote for the first time. In accordance with the act, several states, "seven of the eleven southern states of the former confederacy" - Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia — were subjected to the procedure of preclearance in 1965, while Texas, home to the majority of the African American population at the time, followed in 1975.

After the murder of civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo, Johnson went on television to announce the arrest of four Ku Klux Klansmen implicated in her death. He angrily denounced the Klan as a "hooded society of bigots," and warned them to "return to a decent society before it's too late." Johnson was the first President to arrest and prosecute members of the Klan since Ulysses S. Grant about 93 years earlier. He turned the themes of Christian redemption to push for civil rights, thereby mobilizing support from churches North and South.

During a Howard University commencement address on June 4, 1965, he said that both the government and the nation needed to help achieve those goals: 

“We have to shatter forever not only the barriers of law and public practice, but the walls which bound the condition of many by the color of his skin. To dissolve, as best we can, the antique enmities of the heart which diminish the holder, divide the great democracy, and do wrong — great wrong — to the children of God.” 

In 1967, Johnson nominated civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall to be the first African American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

   

President Richard M. Nixon

The Nixon years witnessed the first large-scale integration of public schools in the South. Nixon sought a middle ground between the segregationist Wallace and liberal Democrats, whose support of integration was alienating some Southern whites.  Hopeful of doing well in the South in 1972, he sought to dispose of desegregation as a political issue before then.  Soon after his inauguration, he appointed Vice President Spiro Agnew to lead a task force, which worked with local leaders—both white and black—to determine how to integrate local schools.

Vice-President Agnew had little interest in the work, and most of it was done by Labor Secretary George Shultz. Federal aid was available, and a meeting with President Nixon was a possible reward for compliant committees.  By September 1970, fewer than ten percent of black children were attending segregated schools.  But by 1971, however, tensions over desegregation surfaced in Northern cities, with angry protests over the busing of children to schools outside their neighborhood to achieve racial balance. Nixon opposed busing personally but did not subvert court orders requiring its use.

In addition to desegregating public schools, Nixon implemented the Philadelphia Plan in 1970—the first significant federal affirmative action program.  He also endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment after it passed both houses of Congress in 1972 and went to the states for ratification.  Nixon had campaigned as an ERA supporter in 1968, though feminists criticized him for doing little to help the ERA or their cause after his election, though he appointed more women to administration positions than Lyndon Johnson.

I feel your pain and frustrations with the likes of Dr. Boyce Watkins, Oprah, Michael Dyson, and President Obama.   The problem in our community runs even deeper when you add Cornell West, Tavis Smiley, Steve Harvey, Joe Madison, Al Sharpton, and the latest and greatest Michael Baldsden, etc.

They all have the same problem, giant Egos.  Instead of being INCLUSIVE they are busy being EXCLUSIVE and have no creative ideas of their own.  Oprah to some extent has reached back by coming up with the brilliant idea of creating a “Book Club.”  The club opened some doors for aspiring black authors who would have never been heard.

She traveled to Africa to open an all girl’s school it was another brilliant idea but charity should always start at home.  Her hometown of Chicago (or Mississippi) would have been a great place to start and then head out to Africa!

If you carefully checkout the credentials of today’s media know it alls, they only became experts on the black community after they became on air and print media personalities.  Starting out they knew absolutely nothing about the war zones of their own community.

I have yet to hear back from Randy Kennedy but there is one thing I know, his parents exposed him and his siblings to the real “Game Called Life” from the very beginning.   The Bill Cosby Show on NBC could have easily been the Kennedy household in Washington, DC.  Henry and Rachel Kenny were definitely the Cosbys of NW DC.

This is not to say Randy Kennedy has not forgotten his early teachings (the Harold Bell jury is still out) but I would bet on him in a black horse race against Boyce any day in the week!

In summarizing what has gone wrong in our community I always refer back to a 60 minute interview with the founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Arthur Mitchell.  In the interview about the financial struggles of his theatre and a lack of support from blacks, Morley Safer asked him if he was angry!  He did not miss a beat, Mitchell responded, “You show me a black person who is not angry about the status of black America and I will show you a black man and woman who need to see a psychiatrist.”

Our problems run deep and we have to look no further then the mirror on the wall.

In November 2012 as we headed to the polls to elect a President for the next term we must remember that the poor state of America does not fall all on the shoulders of Barack Obama. 

According to a published story in USA Today dated August 15, 2012 “Just 61 bills have become law to date in 2012 out of 3,914 bills that have been introduced by lawmakers, or less than 2% of all proposed laws, according to a USA analysis of records since 1947 kept by the U. S. House Clerk’s office.

In 2011, after Republicans took control of the House, Congress passed just 90 bills into law.  The only other year in which Congress failed to pass at least 125 laws was 1995.

These stats make the 112th Congress, covering 2011-2012 the least productive two-year gathering on Capitol Hill since the end of World War II.  Not even the 80th Congress, which President Truman called the “Do nothing Congress in 1948, passed as few laws as the current one, records show.”

In 2012 Minority American voters were caught between a rock and hard place, a do nothing Congress on both sides of the aisle and what too many consider a “Do nothing President!”      

 

 

 


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