Tuesday, September 30, 2003
( 11:51 PM ) Jackie
Justice Dealt a Blow in Oakland Today as Criminal Cops Take a Pass
Like the craven cowards they are, the three ex-police officers on trial for 35 criminal charges sneaked into the courtroom through the basement and the back door.
This was an unconscious metaphor for the diry work they did in the dead of night, under bridges and overpasses, out of sight of the public, to people they thought would not be seen. The beatings, kidnappings, planted evidence, lies on police reports were all kept undercover.
This morning the jury in the Riders criminal trial came back again with their verdicts. You couldn't walk down the hall without stumbling over a journalist. The tv crews held their huge camera on their left shoulders, supporting them with both hands or sometimes just letting the camera rest there. I was there with my Cannon S 400 digital elph, and it was tiny, tiny next to the video cameras.
The general expectation was that the jury would remain deadlocked. They had agreed on 8 counts and their verdicts were sealed. Today we learned that in each of these 8 counts, they declared the cops Not Guilty. They remained deadlocked on the remaining charges, and the judge declared a mistrial. There is still a possibility that there will be another trial, and that's what I hope for.
The press acted as if this were The Big Story on police brutality. And in a way it is. But the Really Big Story is that these three officers on trial are only a tiny group compared to the total number of officers who call themselves the Riders and who terrorize African American communities just as these three did.
No, the Big Story isn't about this trial or these three officers who got caught. The Big Story is the 40-50 cops who haven't been identified to the public. Some of us who work on police accountability know who some of those cops are. I've seen two of them beat up a young man in my own neighborhood. The lawyers who won a settlement in the civil case know more of them. If you live in West Oakland, or North Oakland, or East Oakland, you know a few of them as well.
But the press, presented with the opportunity for a major investigation, chose instead to buy the lie that these are "just a few bad apples". They prefer to pander to Scary Mayor Jerry, the former Governor Moonbeam who has transmogrified into a mililtary apologist and "tough on crime" kind of a guy.
The City, too, the Police Department, and Alameda County, the district attorney's office, have been content to let the remaining Riders go unidentified and unpunished.
Kudos to Attorneys Burris and Chenin who have worked to bring justice to the victims of police brutality. And to Keith Batt, the rookie officer who broke the blue wall of silence. And, yes, some to the District Attorney who brought at least these three cops to trial. They revealed some of the mess that has been hidden.
Kudos to Mandingo Hayes, who stood up in court and told the truth about the verdict. He was of course "detained". But he knows the truth and he knows how to speak it.
And much love to the victims of the police who have now received the insult of a so-called system of justice that has turned its back on them -- because they are African American, because they are poor, because they may have been in trouble with the law themselves, and mostly because the jury could not bring themselves to believe that they too deserve justice.
The struggle for justice is a long, slow, painful one. Today's verdict was a blow to justice. But it's just one little trial after all. And the work goes on.
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