It was like dialing M for murder’

Sean Bell: Tip of iceberg in NYC police murder culture (FCN, 04-16-2007)

NEW YORK ( – “We demand that policing which only serves to brutalize and terrorize communities of color must stop,” said an internet message from Peoples’ Justice for Community Control and Police Accountability, a grassroots coalition of anti-police brutality organizations.


The message was sent out in response to the most recent police shooting of a Black youth in the city: Five officers–three regular city police officers and two from the New York Police Dept. Housing Unit–shot and killed 18-year-old Khiel Coppin. Mr. Coppin had a hairbrush in his hands Nov. 12 when officers fired 20 rounds at him.

It “appears officers were acting within department guidelines,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

“With the one-year anniversary of the killing of Sean Bell looming, this latest killing at the hands of trigger happy police officers is a disturbing reminder that police violence continues with people of color as its primary targets,” said Peoples’ Justice.

“This killing once again reveals the pattern, and policy, of the NYPD to shoot to kill in communities of color as an initial response, regardless of whether the circumstances call for deadly force,” the group added.

Police officials said officers were responding to a 911 call from Mr. Coppin’s mother, who asked for help with a domestic dispute. A man’s voice could be heard in the background threatening to kill her and claiming “I have a gun,” according to police officials. Mr. Coppin had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication, medication for attention deficit disorder and was acting strange, according to relatives and police.

“When she called for help, it was like dialing M for murder. We need to decentralize the police department. We carry around a candy bar — they shoot us. Little Clifford Glover had an afro pick and they killed him, Amadou Diallo’s wallet was enough to get him killed. Now a hairbrush! The police have gone wild,” said Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron.

Kevin Muhammad, NYC Millions More Movement Local Organizing Committee chairman, told The Final Call Blacks in New York need to create a think tank and energize a movement to stunt the growth of “our open enemies.”

“Like no other time has there been a greater need for the marriage between the skilled and the unskilled to become honored servants and respond to the needs of our people,” said Mr. Muhammad, of Muhammad’s Mosque No. 7 in Harlem.

Marq Claxton of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care is willing to be part of a think tank. “You look at the think tanks that White folks have, and you see the power they derive from them. With the brilliance of Black people in this city, a think tank would be perfect. It can be a very important instrument for our Black elected officials,” Mr. Claxton said.

“A think tank that could help with solutions to the mental health problem in our communities would be something I would be a part of,” Councilman Leroy Comrie of Queens told The Final Call. It seems that young Coppin’s mother had tried to get him psychiatric help the same day he was killed.

“The mental health in our community is precarious, so many of our young people are distressed. Our response must be one of helping them face their realities,” Councilman Comrie said. A think tank would be able to establish a program to meet needs and politicians would be able to formulate a way for financial support, he said.

As the Black community braces itself for the upcoming Nov. 23 march and vigil for in remembrance of Sean Bell, an unarmed Black man who was killed when police fired 50 shots at his car, there are other allegations of police misconduct that have many shaking their heads in disbelief.

Cab driver Stephen Springle, a Queens resident, said he was sitting in his vehicle Oct. 28 on a Staten Island street, when police officers demanded that he move his car. According to Springle, officers used mace to get his attention and beat him.

A 14-year-old Black child was picked up Halloween night by two White police officers for allegedly throwing eggs at passing cars. According to his parents, the officers drove the boy to a deserted area, stripped him of his clothes and left him. The parents said their son was beaten and officers hurled racial epithets at him. The officers deny beating the boy or using racial slurs. They have been charged with unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a minor. Both charges are misdemeanors.

The officers told their supervisors they were trying to teach the young teen a lesson, according to reports.

“These police officers should have been charged with nothing less than kidnapping,” said Mr. Claxton.

In early October, Jayson Tirado was shot to death by an off-duty police officer in what authorities are calling a “road rage” case. The officer has been suspended without pay while a grand jury investigates possible charges.