A Statement From The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches On The Amadou Diallo Verdict
March 1, 2000, New York City--We are deeply shocked over a verdict that once again declares "not guilty" in the shooting death of an innocent man. This time it is the acquittal of four white New York City policemen on thirty-two counts in the death of Amadou Diallo. This acquittal rules out any further prosecution of the defendants by the State. We also recognize the national problem at the heart of this case: racial profiling, which is rampant throughout the United States.
We express heartfelt sadness to the Diallo family at this second miscarriage of justice, which follows the death of their son. We praise them for the restraint they have shown in this most difficult time, including their call for calm immediately following announcement of the verdict.
Mr. Diallo, a 22-year-old man, was a recent immigrant to this country from Guinea in West Africa who came to pursue the "American Dream." He was a son, a brother, a friend and, by all accounts, a hard worker. He will never be a father or a grandfather, nor will he ever realize his full potential as a human being because of the 41 shots which rang out on February 4, 1999, in what should have been the safety of his own home. Nineteen of those forty-one shots hit their mark. From all accounts, Amadou Diallo was acting logically when he reached into his pocket to show four men dressed in civilian clothing his identification. Even if Mr. Diallo had been aware that the four men were police, as a new immigrant to this country he may have been unaware of the danger to which people of color expose themselves when they make a move after being stopped by the police.
The NCC takes notice of other recent cases in which police have violated human rights - notably the cases of Anthony Baez and Abner Louima. In an editorial in The New York Times (2/26/00), New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer documented this pernicious trend. He stated that, "even accounting for higher crime rates in minority neighborhoods, blacks were stopped 23 percent more often than whites, and Hispanics were stopped 39 percent more often. In precincts where blacks and Hispanics each represent less than 10 percent of the population, they accounted for more than half the stops."
We live in an increasingly violent society where racial profiling has become a serious problem. Unfortunately, New York City has a climate in which police feel free to shoot first and ask questions later. Evidence of institutional racism was clear in this case when the decision was made to move the venue of the trial from the Bronx, where the shooting occurred, to Albany, a community where seemingly little understanding exists of the kind of racial profiling and civilian-police tensions which plague the Bronx.
We urge New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir to ensure that all law-abiding persons will be safe in New York City and we further urge:
- Re-establishment of and full support for a civilian review board.
- Appointment of a special prosecutor to look into high profile cases such as
- the Diallo, Baez and Louima cases and
- Additional special training for the Street Crimes Unit and other police officers so that they may become more aware of the communities in which they serve.
We urge these steps not only in New York City but in all communities throughout the United States where there is racial profiling and human rights violations by police.
Contact: NCC News
NCC Home Page