Police violence, racism and inhumanity: “Who’s hurt?” “Nobody. Just a perp.”

Errol Louis, a Daily News columnist and the political news anchor on NY1, today wrote a blistering essay about police violence. It expands powerfully on my story about one innocent victim of a racist murdering cop.

Louis’s last paragraph resonates with me particularly:

Maybe there’s a psychological test or screening process that can weed out unfit cops who can say that one of the people they are sworn to protect is “nobody.” Until we figure that out, all the technology in the world won’t save us from the savage inhumanity of violent, murderous men who have no business wearing the uniform.

Here’s the whole essay.

Reform starts with humanity

America’s long-overdue process of reforming law enforcement picked up steam in the year since the nation reacted in outrage to video depicting the slow murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman. But we have a long way to go.

Dozens of state legislatures, including in New York, have enacted timely and necessary changes in laws and procedures. Congressional Democrats, at the urging of President Biden, are trying to pass federal-level reforms under the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

These changes are mostly well-considered and worth trying. But none of it will work unless we change something that can’t be legislated: our ability to recognize each other’s humanity — not mechanically, because the law requires it; not grudgingly, to avoid being called a racist; but fully and truly because everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Consider the gruesome killing of Ronald Greene in Monroe, La., after what looks like an extended period of torture by state troopers, one of whom later boasts about beating Greene to death. The heart-rending scene of Greene crying out to Jesus and begging for his life is caught on body-worn cameras, one of those reforms that police agencies are deploying around the country.

The killing happened in 2019, but the true story came to light only a few days ago — following two years of stalling tactics and outright falsehoods by the Louisiana State Police — thanks to persistent pressure by the Associated Press.

“OK, OK, I’m sorry!” Greene said to the white officers he’d led on a high-speed chase after midnight in rural Louisiana, fleeing an unspecified traffic violation. “I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!”

They began tasing Greene before he even stepped out of the car, and proceeded to beat him and drag him along the road, face down, with his legs shackled and his hands cuffed behind his back. Then they left him lying facedown for approximately nine minutes.
“I hope this guy ain’t got f——— AIDS,” one of the troopers says, as they washed Greene’s blood off of them.

“I beat the ever-living f—- out of him,” Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, one of the torturers, said in a later phone conversation obtained by the AP. “Choked him and everything else trying to get him under control. We finally got him in handcuffs when a third man got there, and the son of a b—— was still fighting him, was still wrestling with him trying to hold him down. He was spitting blood everywhere and all of a sudden he just went limp.”

Hollingsworth, who later died in a single-car crash, cannot be prosecuted for his role in the death of Greene. But a federal civil-rights investigation has been launched into the killing and subsequent coverup by the Louisiana State Police and others.

The local coroner’s office initially labeled Greene’s death “accidental.” Hospital authorities say the troopers told them Greene died on impact after a car crash, despite the multiple blunt-impact wounds on his head and two taser burns on his back. “Does not add up,” a hospital administrator noted.

The same false “car crash” story was fed to Greene’s family, who were told by troopers that he died on impact after crashing into a tree. The family was denied access to the body-worn camera images because it was allegedly part of an ongoing investigation.

The brutality and subsequent coverup in Louisiana carry echoes of deadly brutality, followed by stalling tactics and false reports, that we saw in the 2014 killing of a teenager named Laquan McDonald in Chicago and the utterly unwarranted shooting death of Kawaski Trawick in the Bronx in 2019.

The Chicago Police Department initially claimed McDonald was killed by a single bullet after lunging at cops. Video later showed the unarmed teenager, slowly walking away from officers, was shot 16 times.

In the Bronx, Trawick was in his own apartment making dinner when cops showed up and knocked on the door. One officer tases him almost immediately and ends up shooting Trawick to death, all in less than two minutes — after which the NYPD stalled release of the video for a year.

There’s no point in requiring the use of body-worn cameras unless the public gets timely access to the recordings. The fancy technology too often gets overridden by a brutal lack of humanity.

Shortly after Trawick was gunned down, an NYPD supervisor shows up and asks “Who’s hurt?” The answer from cops on the scene was: “Nobody. Just a perp.”

Maybe there’s a psychological test or screening process that can weed out unfit cops who can say that one of the people they are sworn to protect is “nobody.” Until we figure that out, all the technology in the world won’t save us from the savage inhumanity of violent, murderous men who have no business wearing the uniform.

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