Friday, May 29, 2009

Black cop killed by white officer in Harlem

The story broke overnight and I am listening to reports of it on CBS News' Early Show here in NY. What a sad, sad day for Harlem, Brooklyn, where the officer lived, and New York as a whole. Too often we hear of our brothers being shot while undercover or off duty by their white comrades. Too often we see that an inquest is held and the perpetrator - yes - perpetrator - is exonerated. It is enough that our black men are imprisoned fairly and unfairly by a system that is designed to hold them down or back. In the case of officer Edwards, he was a rookie and had just finished his shift. He walked a few blocks to his car and there it happened. He saw someone breaking into a car and began to try to apprehend the individual. Another police officer happened on the scene and allegedly yelled at Edwards: "Police, Stop, Drop it!" - Shots were fired and one hit Edwards in the arm, the other in the chest, wounding him fatally.

Here is a quote from his father: "If a police officer sees someone with a gun, you don't just fire without asking questions or trying to apprehend the person," said Ricardo Edwards, 72. "If the person was firing at a police officer, I understand."

I have spoken before of the training needed at all levels and in all police departments, based on my work with the Salt Lake City corporation community action teams, where I worked frequently with police officers. Their mentality is to shoot first and ask questions later. A black officer should not have to worry about being mistaken for a perpetrator of a crime whether on or off duty.

Thankfully, the amazing Mayor Bloomberg came out in the wee hours of the morning to make a public statement to the family, as he should in such times as these. This will be of little comfort to Edwards' wife and two small children who will have to struggle to maintain their equilibrium as their father and husband has violently been taken from them, even as he tried to keep the violence in New York City at a minimum.

I pray that the powers that be will hold an inquest and that the truth will come out - this looks at the outset to be a case of racial profiling - yet again - thanks New York's finest. This is a sad day for New York indeed - sad indeed.

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