Police brutality is perhaps one of the most serious issues of human violation that is oftentimes unaddressed because of the cover up by fellow police officers during internal investigations. There are numerous instances when police officers engage in the activities of rough physical treatments such as gratuitous shooting, beating, torture, and other unnecessary brutal acts among civilians which often result in injury or even death. As they are suspects of a crime, the victims, as well as their families who are seeking justice, are usually overlooked.
Yet, more often than not, the people who deserve to be held accountable by the brutal violation of human rights getaway from the due punishment and continue to do their foul crimes (Collins 1). I recall an incident that involves the brutality of police officers, and I believe that this is just another case that could be included in the long list of the murders that was carried out by these people who are supposed to be serving and protecting human rights. The murder of Sean Bell stirred the rage of many people, especially the Black community against the New York police department.
Sean’s case was another testament of the system that denied justice to the rightful people. Everything started in the early morning hours of November 25, 2006, Saturday. Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman, and Trent Benefield went into Jamaica, Queen’s Kalua Cabaret to celebrate the upcoming wedding of Bell to his fiancee Nicole Paultre which will take place later that same day. During that time, the said bar was under investigation by the New York police department because of prostitution allegations and drug activity. While inside the bar, an argument broke out between Bell’s group and two other men.
It was heard that Bell told his companions that the incident was not what he expected for his bachelor’s party, and that it was about time to get out because he was getting married. However, as the three were about to leave, the clash continued at the club’s foyer, and threats were made by both groups. Minutes later, Bell and his friends finally decided to leave and headed towards Sean’s car which was parked near Liverpool Street. Meanwhile, that same night, an NYPD undercover cop was at the Kalua Cabaret and witnessed the argument that took place.
After Bell and his friends left the bar, the undercover cop motioned to the other police officers who were positioned in a minivan and Toyota Camry and signalled that one of the three young men might have a gun in their possession. By the time Bell, Guzman, and Benefield were about to get inside the car, the minivan and Toyota Camry approached them and the undercover cop at the Kalua Cabaret walked towards the vehicle with a weapon at hand, without identifying himself and his companions.
Not knowing the identity of the detectives, Bell and his friends thought that the officers in plainclothes were going to rob and car-jack them. As such, Bell’s initial reaction was to escape by pitching the car forward, “clipping” the undercover cop. Bell then went into reverse which caused his vehicle to climb to the sidewalks, hitting the car rear into the iron gate of a store and shifting forward again that hit the minivan. Failing to give a warning shot, the undercover police officer who approached Bell began open firing the vehicle carrying the three men which caused the other police officers to open fire as well.
Who would have thought that the quiet street of Liverpool in New York City neighborhood would be caught unprepared by this event? In a matter of seconds, 50 shots were fired. It was even reported that one of the officers reloaded his weapon and fired 31 times with which he emptied two full magazines. In an instant, Sean Bell died inside his car and both Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield were critically wounded. Just try to imagine a single bullet entering your body, then try to imagine what Bell and his friends had to endure.
I believe that 50 shots without any bullet proofs to cover them up is a total human carnage. What is more painful about this case is that, after Sean Bell, even if he was already dead, and his friends were brought to the hospital, they were handcuffed in their hospital beds because of the police justification that they were not certain if the men were armed. Likewise, this is the same reason that they gave when they opened fired Bell’s vehicles stating that they feared for their own lives because they thought that Bell and his friends have guns (Revolutionary Communist Party).
During the verdict of Sean’s case, the accused police officers who were identified as Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora, and Marc Cooper were found not guilty of the crime they have committed. Oliver who gun fired 31 times and Isnora who fired 11 times were charged of manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and felony assault and were bound to serve 25 years of jail time. The other cop, Michael Cooper, who was found out to have fired four times, was charged of reckless endangerment and was bound to serve up to a year in prison.
However, the police officers were not convicted. They are once again free to roam around the city, commit another brutal crime against ordinary citizens, and getaway with the punishment. Meanwhile, the family of Sean Bell, who was merely 23 years old during the time of his death, was denied with the justice that they deserved (Powell). At this point in time, there is still no clarity with regards to the case of Sean Bell’s murder. The truth is once again twisted as well as the justice system against police brutality.
Sean’s death catapulted the anger of the African American community against police, and I believe that that day marked a great change in the life of Sean’s friends, his family, and the other members of the community. At that point, I realize that every single occurring case like this leads to nothing. Even though a police officer is already found guilty and the evidences all points to him, the possibility of having him convicted is very little. Nevertheless, it is highly important that the truth behind the brutality of police officers should be uncovered so that for once, everything else would fall into its proper place.