Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union Director, on Trayvon Martin

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Turmoil and tension over Trayvon Martin continues to escalate across the U.S. -- now greatly inflamed by a leaked police report -- and intense discussion of the teen's death has continued in New York.

From Sean Bell to Jateik Reed to Ramarley Graham, the NYPD has long had a very strained relationship with young men of color.

The New York Civil Liberties Union feels that these cases emphasize the need for reform in the NYPD. The organization says that current policing tactics disproportionately target blacks and latinos. NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman chatted with Runnin' Scared about how the Trayvon Martin incident affects civil rights and law enforcement in the city. (Runnin' Scared also reached out to the NYPD for comment. We'll update if we hear back.)

Runnin' Scared: The Trayvon Martin case took place in Sanford, Fla., but has prompted nationwide protest. But how does this shooting specifically relate to New York?

Donna Lieberman: The Trayvon Martin case has galvanized public concern about a terrible fact of life that has been a problem for communities of color for years. Here in New York City, the police department treats black people -- particularly young black men and other young people of color -- as suspicious by virtue of the communities they live in, the way they dress, and the color of their skin.

The now public recognizes that what happened to Trayvon Martin at the hands of a vigilante gunman could well happen to any number of young African-American men at the hands of the New York City police.

Runnin' Scared: What else?

Lieberman: The public is now far more likely to question NYPD actions: the racially lopsided stop-and-frisk program and its housing equivalents, operation clean halls and vertical patrols, and the excessive misdemeanor marijuana arrests.

Runnin' Scared: How do marijuana arrests relate to this issue?

Lieberman: It's particularly helpful in understanding the racial biases, because that's one of the few areas where we have long term scientific data about who sells and uses marijuana. Whites use and sell far more marijuana than do African-Americans and latinos, and this gives undermine the police commissioner's constant refrains: 'That we go where the crime is.'

Not so with marijuana, for sure, and also not so in terms of stop-and-frisk. Eighty-eight percent of the people who are stopped by the police department that takes a 'zero-tolerance' approach do not receive even a summons.

Runnin' Scared: If this is the case, why hasn't there been reform?

Lieberman: In New York, at least, our police commissioner has said time and again that he believes that it's appropriate to put officers in the communities where there's a lot of crime. This transforms life in communities of color into one that is not free, and where parents have to teach their adolescent children how to survive an encounter with the police. The police department, which claims to be data driven, has not in fact provided data to establish a connection between stop-and-frisks and reduced crime, but we do know that it makes community members feel less safe from police and it also undermines the trust that is critical to effective policing.

Runnin' Scared:How else has this impacted relationships between cops and community members?

Lieberman: If people are treated as suspects in every encounter with the police, then it's reasonable that they would not want to go to the police for help or to assist them. It's really hard to document, but it's people not wanting to interact with the police. It's not coming forward as witnesses. It's not reporting crimes. It's not helping them with investigations where they have evidence.

Runnin' Scared: Is there more information on these relationships?

Lieberman: The New York Civil Liberties Union is in the midst of a survey. We're analyzing the results of a survey of attitudes and experience with the police. It's our prediction that what will emerge is a tale of two cities -- that if you are white, the policeman will be perceived as your friend but if you're a person of color, particularly if you are young, the view will be far different.

Runnin' Scared: How do you hope New York changes in response to Trayvon Martin's death?

Lieberman: We hope that this will prompt the public and city officials to insist on greater accountability, greater transparency, and greater oversight.

Runnin' Scared: What can be done to fix the relationship between cops and communities of color?

Lieberman: There are some procedural fixes that might ameliorate police-community interactions, like requiring police officers to hand out business cards whenever they stop somebody so that asking for an officer's name and badge number does not create a flashpoint for conflict. Also, requiring that police officers provide the equivalent of Miranda warnings in appropriate situations, letting individuals know that they do not have to consent to a search when there is not sufficient justification. There's legislation, too, to create an inspector general that would provide oversight.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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6 comments
Wgalison
Wgalison

NEW YORK CITY's OWN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE NYPD cover up of murder  Sunny Sheu, was a mortgage fraud victim who discovered that a NY Supreme Court Judge was complicit in the theft of his house. Sunny was kidnapped by the NYPD and threatened with death if he went to the press.   www.sunnysheu.blogspot.com.  He went to WABC news in New York and to the FBI requesting witness protection. He also made a Youtube video predicting his death  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...  On July 26th, 2010, Sunny was found bludgeoned to death in an alley on July 26th 2010   Hours after his death, the NYPD illegally removed Sunny's body from the hospital, and sent it to the Medical Examiner for immediate cremation, with a note saying he died of an aneurism "with no criminality".  The M.E. disagreed, ruling that the cause of death "blunt force trauma to the head with skull fractures and brain injuries" and calling for an investigation.  Sunny's body was authorized for cremated by a fraudulent executor with no relation to Mr Sheu, his family or friends.   Two years since his death, there has been no investigation.   The entire case is documented at www.sunnysheu.blogspot.com.

Wgalison
Wgalison

NEW YORK CITY's OWN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE NYPD cover up of murder  Sunny Sheu, was a mortgage fraud victim who discovered that a NY Supreme Court Judge was complicit in the theft of his house. Sunny was kidnapped by the NYPD and threatened with death if he went to the press.   www.sunnysheu.blogspot.com.  He went to WABC news in New York and to the FBI requesting witness protection. He also made a Youtube video predicting his death  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...  On July 26th, 2010, Sunny was found bludgeoned to death in an alley on July 26th 2010   Hours after his death, the NYPD illegally removed Sunny's body from the hospital, and sent it to the Medical Examiner for immediate cremation, with a note saying he died of an aneurism "with no criminality".  The M.E. disagreed, ruling that the cause of death "blunt force trauma to the head with skull fractures and brain injuries" and calling for an investigation.  Sunny's body was authorized for cremated by a fraudulent executor with no relation to Mr Sheu, his family or friends.   Two years since his death, there has been no investigation.   The entire case is documented at www.sunnysheu.blogspot.com.

Denis Drew
Denis Drew

 

The eight-grade math of massively frisking New York City's minorities: After -- crime was reduced by 4X, stop-and-frisk went up by 6X = 24X as many frisks per reported crime.  This means -- either -- that those police officers and administrators responsible for reducing crime to 25% of what it was were  totally remiss and neglectful in their patrol duties (wouldn't that be a contradiction in terms?) -- or -- that the Fourth Amendment has been totally suspended for New York City minorities (the mayor's intended victims?).   Could 24X increase in frisking be a move by Mad King Bloomberg* to reduce the numbers of the less affluent and minorities -- to make room for more of their opposite numbers?  ??? * The allusion is to Mayor Bloomberg wasting a half billion dollars (in today's money) to build a massive new courthouse in the Bronx -- to replace the beautiful courthouse at the corner of 161st street and Grand Concourse, a courthouse so beautiful outside and functional inside they cannot tear it down (it's the black and white striped building you used to see in the background looking to the outfield of the old Yankee Stadium) and the brand new,when I was going there in the late 1970s, courthouse down the hill; two of the nicest courthouses in the country -- in, until the recent incursion of yuppies, the poorest congressional district in the country -- a half billion dollars!

Gall
Gall

It's almost unbelievable that the head of the nations foremost defender of civil liberties was interviewed about the most controversial criminal matter in our nation, and NOT once mentioned the legal presumption of innocence or fair trial requirement that Zimmerman as an American is entitled to. The ACLU is not what it once was....

JeffreySmith1
JeffreySmith1

Question: What about Mr Zimmerman's civil liberties?

What about the fact that No One know what really happened that day....

The serious investigations have not been completed, and that's assuming that a fair andballanced investigation can be doen in an atmosphere such as has now been createdby ONE SIDE.

Besides trying Mr Zimmerman in the media and in the streets, this has all been used towell, again, refuel the almost bankrupt far left and the small remains of the Black Power movement.

Now it appears perfect,(to read the media) Treavon has a less than perfect background AND that witnesses saw angelic Treavon on top of Mr Zimmerman during thier struggle. Again, isit just possible that he attempted to grab Mr Zimmerman's legal firearm?

The point is, we don't know what happened. But that hasn't stopped the Sharptons, the Bloombergs and now the ACLU from weighing in and attempting to use this incident forthier own purposes.

By the way, notice what an effective spokeman the ACLU was for the demonstrators arrestedback at the RNC? They knew just how to avoid any kind of real confrontation with Bloomberg.The ACLU is "concerned" with civil liberties"?  Well notice thier inaction on Waco and Ruby Ridge? (Even when they found, for example, that the Delta force had been brought to Waco.)

The ACLU knows very well what cases, and what aspects of cases, they want to take up...and what incidents and general subjects they want to very carefully leave alone..

Jeffrey J Smith  Northeast editor American Free Press (pub in Washington DC)

JeffreyJSmith.NewYork@usa.com 

loulai
loulai

Police Departments target crime wherever that may be. They stop cars where there is reason to be suspicious e.g. driving violations, people matching description of perpetrators etc. Ms Lieberman may want to consider that police officers want to get home safe and sound. They don't go into the most vile and dangerous environments for amusement or sociological study. If  some people in the Black community are responsible for the majority of street crime that's where officers will be found. Responsible members of those same communities want protection but are most often barred from assisting officers due to fear of violent criminal neighbors. Ms LIeberman's procedural "fixes" are ridiculous and geared to harrassing officers even more than is now the case-officers who are attempting to do an increasingly dangerous job. Perhaps if Ms Lieberman were to live in the real world instead of the rarified environmment of the professional liberal she might have more understanding of the lives of ordinary people of all races who dwell in a world of escalating savagery thanks to the politically correct system which supports it.

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