Backlash in blue?

Readers respond to Bruce Shapiro's indictment of the NYPD's handling of the Central Park attacks.

By Salon Staff

Published June 19, 2000 11:00AM (EDT)

Denied the benefit of the doubt by a public they risk their lives to protect, it is not totally surprising that some NY police "ignored" pleas for help in the recent gang-groping incident in Central Park.

After being maligned as criminals by black demagogues, pandering politicians, the media and even Bruce Springsteen, maybe the NY police felt some street reality might help the public distinguish between the good guys and the thugs.

-- Frank Hainze

You give me courage and strength. Thank you for writing this article, I can't tell you how much it means to me.

-- Anne Peyton Bryant

"The Central Park wolf pack, the Diallo shooting -- both are symptoms of a police department that has lost its way, ill at ease in its own American skin."

Funny, I was under the impression that the Central Park sexual attacks were caused by a large group of men who think it's fun to terrorize and sexually molest women. Saying that this sort of thing doesn't and wouldn't happen if the police patrolled their beats better is ridiculous.

Why don't we focus on teaching men that this behavior is absolutely unacceptable so that even when there are no cops around women don't get sexually assaulted. Or are you saying that "boys will be boys" and only cops can prevent these boys from treating women like meat?

-- Sam Berg

Which does the public want, too hot or too cold? Can you imagine what would have happened had the NYPD fully upheld the law and arrested hundreds if not thousands of people for drinking, public drug use, assault, harassment and god knows what else?

The NYPD gets a mixed message from its own leaders and the community leaders who want it just right. Tell me how it is possible to properly police a parade of hundreds of thousands where large groups scattered throughout the parade are intent on mayhem? It's impossible to get it perfect.

Next year you will see home videos of the NYPD "brutalizing" parade-goers who used "excessive force" trying to control the crowd. Which does the public want? You can't have it both ways.

-- Hagen Scutt

To say that the NYPD ignoring the series of sexual assaults on women in Central Park is the same problem as the NYPD's treatment of Amadou Diallo is to overlook an important part of what happened in Central Park -- it seems to have been a series of hate crimes by men, against women. Let's not leave that out.

The negligence on behalf of the NYPD could be attributed to a shared complicity in patriarchy and sexual violence against women. We're all living in a rape culture.

Giuliani responds that he can't be held responsible because the police can't be everywhere at once. If the only answer to social injustice that you can imagine is a police state, then of course his is the reasonable response.

-- Meegan White

The June 15 edition of the NY Daily News reports a riot that happened in a predominantly Puerto Rican and black section of Harlem the night before the infamous Central Park incident. In this riot the same type of aggressive, sexist behavior on the part of black and Hispanic males took place, and again the police stood by, though this time because they were heavily outnumbered. Reinforcements eventually showed up and the riot was brought under control.

The paper also reported, in a separate story, that at the Puerto Rican Day and West Indie parades, the police, except in egregious cases, follow an officially unofficial hands-off policy -- giving out warnings for pot smoking and drunkenness instead of confiscating and making arrests. Meanwhile, a hard-line enforcement policy is taken at the St. Patrick's Day parade. During the festival at which the riot occurred, one witness, a resident of the neighborhood, said that flirting soon turned to overt sexuality with some women going around naked and letting themselves be groped, while other women were groped against their will. She said it all made her ashamed for her race.

And there's the crux. Al Sharpton, involved in all things minority whenever the cops are involved, is more outraged at the cops who allegedly ignored the reports of sexual assaults on two minority women than he is by the behavior of the minority males who showed an utter disrespect for the women in the park. And this kind of disrespect is rampant in the minority communities. It's in the rap music, it's in the culture, it's in the domestic abuse statistics, it's in the news, but it goes unaddressed.

This is not to say that all minority men are this way, nor is it to say that, by any stretch, only minority men act like animals toward women. But unless and until the likes of Sharpton address the issue of respect, and encourage minority women to demand the respect they deserve, and unless they more forcefully denounce and address minority-on-minority crime instead of only focusing on the police (more blacks have killed blacks than all the cops combined have) then they are simply enabling and indirectly encouraging the types of despicable acts that occurred in Central Park.

-- Todd Sanders

Shapiro forgot one reason that the cops didn't react sooner to the events at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York: Fear of being called racist. These days, every time a person of color is questioned by police, it is called racist. The inaction by police is a result. What do you want: police involvement or not?

Police are human. Far from disrupting their "easy Sunday overtime" (a phrase that leaves no doubt of the author's anti-police bias), overzealous investigation into claims of racism can ruin a police career, especially now that the burden of proof is on the accused to defend himself.

In Philadelphia the same thing happened at the annual Greek Picnic a few years ago (a national gathering of African-American sororities and fraternities). One year, the complaint was that there were too many police (blamed on the racist fear of large groups of black people gathering); the next year, the complaint was there were not enough police, and some black people got hurt as a result. This damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't paradox for the police affects the safety of everyone, people of color especially, as evidenced by this past weekend's events.

-- Michele Deniken

Oh, now I get it! It's all Giuliani's fault. I shoulda known all along. Lord knows, the cops did so much of a better job under Dinkins.

The police are the last real heroes of American society, and you have to wonder why they even do it. For very low pay, they risk their lives on a daily basis, dealing with thugs and punks and scumbags who have no value system at all, just to be constantly attacked by typewriter-wielding elitists. If Shapiro thinks he can do such a better job, tell him to quit his soft lifestyle, and get out there and do it himself for a change. That would be a much better contribution to society than just whining about it constantly from his privileged perch.

-- Michael Oliver

Salon Staff

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