Target: Police Commissioner William J. Bratton
Goal: Dismiss police officers who treated two protestors, one black and one white, with obvious racial prejudice
Shawn Torres, who is black, and Benjamin Perry, who is white, are both students at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Both were present at a New York protest of Eric Garner’s death and had linked arms to show their support for one another and the cause. When police broke up the protest, Torres was arrested, while an officer grabbed Perry and allegedly said, “Just get out of here.” Perry refused to leave and was ultimately arrested as well, but when they reached the police station Torres had several pins removed from his jacket in case they could be used as weapons while Perry was allowed to keep his. Torres and Perry also overheard an officer calling Latino people the “real thugs” at the protest. Since Torres is half Puerto Rican, this remark seemed targeted at him.
It is obvious that the New York Police Department was not treating the protestors equally. While Perry was told he should just walk free, Torres was arrested for the same act—peacefully protesting the unjust death of Garner. When they were in police custody, Torres was subjected to fear and unfair treatment from the police. Racial inequality is at the forefront of American’s minds right now, but NYPD showed no progress in the treatment of Torres and Perry, who were both arrested for the same thing but experienced radically different treatment.
These officers need to be dismissed. The arresting of peaceful protestors is bad enough, but the dramatically different treatment of Torres and Perry shows the racial bias in the way that police engage with the public. This bias needs to be addressed immediately before more lives are lost to racially motivated violence. Ask the NYPD to dismiss the officers involved and evaluate other offices for similar biases.
Dear Commissioner Bratton,
Relationships between police and the community are incredibly tense right now as people—particularly people of color—feel that law enforcement is not on their side. This tension is made worse by the obviously unequal treatment of black and white protestors. At one protest in New York, two protestors—Shawn Torres, who is black, and Benjamin Perry, who is white—linked arms. When police broke up the crowd, Perry was told to “just get out of [there].” When he refused to leave, the inequality became ever more obvious, as Torres was forced to remove buttons he wore in case he used them as weapons, while Perry was allowed to keep the same buttons. Another office remarked that Latinos—like Torres, who is half Puerto Rican—were the “real thugs.”
This behavior is completely unacceptable. Torres felt disrespected and unsafe in the presence of these officers who were willing to let his white friend go free though they’d both done the same thing. People cannot have faith in the police force when this obvious racial bias is allowed to go unchecked, and as tensions heighten with little repercussion for the officers this distrust only increases.
As police commissioner, you have the power to improve these relationships. Investigate these reports and dismiss the officers who were so willing to let a supposed “criminal” go because he was white. Ask why a black man had buttons taken away in case he chose to use them as a weapon when his white friend did not. Ask why an officer felt it was acceptable to call all Latino people “thugs.” Citizens of New York would like to have faith that the police are on their side—using your influence to be sure that these officers are dismissed is a big step restoring faith in the police force.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: vandalog via Flickr