On the night of February 4th 1999, Amadou Diallo, an unarmed and innocent African immigrant, was gunned down in a hail of 41 bullets while standing in the vestibule of his own apartment building in the Bronx. The officers responsible for Diallo's death were part of New York Police Department's "elite" Street Crime Unit. The plain-clothes officers approached Diallo and pulled their weapons. When Diallo, probably believing they were thieves, pulled out his wallet, the "elite" officers opened a barrage of 41 bullets on the unarmed black man.
Witnesses and forensic evidence suggest that the officers fired a second round of shots after a brief pause and that Diallo's frame absorbed a majority of the bullets after having hit the ground. These facts clearly show that Diallo's human and civil rights were violated that night, and that these four white police officers are guilty of murder. However, they were acquitted of all charges.
Thousands of people protested both the initial indemnity and the acquittal over a year later. This included a collective of Stanford students, who on March 10th, 2000 coordinated a two-hundred-person rally in protest of the Diallo verdict and all other acts of police brutality. Over one thousand Stanford community members signed petitions to the U.S. Dept. of Justice demanding a new federal trial.
Ultimately, the problems of police brutality and racial profiling may be alleviated by race-sensitive police training, requiring officers to be from the neighborhoods they police, and most importantly, decentralizing the police department. This would include holding police officers accountable to an effective community-elected review board that would take the place of internal affairs investigations. Until then, brothers will continue to be murdered by racist police officers.
In the past year alone, at least three unarmed black men (Diallo, Malcolm Ferguson, and Patrick Dorismond) were killed in New York City. In all three instances, police were acquitted of all charges. Kenneth Boss of the NYPD has been acquitted of two murders, Amadou Diallo (1999) and Peter Bailey (1997), and is still working as a police officer.
The Diallo incident is a clear model of how racism operates in this country. Racism is much more complex than feelings or acts of hatred toward another race; it is an institutionalized system of oppression, sharing similarities with sexism, classism, and homophobia but with distinct differences. This institutionalized effort creates an environment where four white men can lynch a Black man and be absolved of all guilt.
1) the media...