‘This Isn’t the Movies,’ Said Safir
‘Jewish blood is not cheap.’ — One of hundreds of Jews in the streets of Borough Park, August 31; ‘Who was trained to act like this?’ — Another Jew in borough Park that night.
Brian Lehrer, who conducts On the Line (WNYC-AM, 10 a.m. to noon weekdays), is the most knowledgeable talk-show host— on a remarkable range of subjects— in this city. He does not push any ideological agenda of his own, but he does challenge guests who try to spin or tell lies.
The morning after Gidone Busch was killed by police in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Lehrer asked two questions that I expect were also being asked by most New Yorkers— of all races, religions, and no religions. Clearly a mentally disturbed man, wielding only a hammer, had been shot to death by the police.
“Could not five officers [there were six]
have subdued him in some other way?” asked Lehrer. “Are they not trained in disarming suspects— especially in the case of a suspect they knew was not armed with a gun?”
The mayor’s immediate response was, as usual, like that of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland: “Sentence first— verdict afterwards!”
The only “investigation” had been an instant preliminary assessment by the NYPD itself. But the mayor’s verdict was “Innocent.”
“There appears to be every reason to believe,” he said, “that the police officers acted in accordance with police procedure and acted in a responsible way to save a human life.”
Every reason to believe?
The police commissioner, the mayor’s faithful vassal, echoed his master:
“This isn’t the movies. You don’t shoot hammers out of hands. You don’t shoot people in the leg. If you use your weapon in exerting deadly physical force, then you shoot to stop the individual who is exerting that deadly physical force against you.”
The facts on the ground, as the September 1 Daily News reported, were:
“The 6-foot-3, 159-pound Busch was hit by 12 bullets, two to his right arm, one to his right leg, one to the left leg, two to the lower torso, one to the lower abdomen, three to his right chest, one to his right back and a graze wound. The 9mm bullets pierced his heart, lungs, liver and intestines, according to the medical examiner’s office.”
The mayor said the police had acted “precisely” according to procedure. Twelve bullets hit Busch. Four more were found embedded in a van down the street.
As Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind pointed out, “It was a hammer, not a gun.”
And it was not the movies. A real man was killed.
Ah, but the mayor and Howard Safir kept reminding us that it was “a claw hammer”! According to the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, a claw hammer is “a hammer having a head with one end curved and a cleft for pulling out nails.” Hardly an unusual hammer.
Busch hit a sergeant on his arm and thigh, and his colleagues immediately delivered “deadly force” to just about all of Busch, including his arms and legs.
It is not surprising that some of the hundreds of Jews protesting in the streets the night of the killing were shouting “No Justice! No Peace!”— Al Sharpton’s anthem. (On WABC radio, cop protector Sean Hannity said only “a few” were protesting.)
When Sharpton tried to forge a bond with the angry Jews, he was turned away. And rightly so. He still righteously refuses to accept any responsibility for his complicity in the multiply destructive Tawana Brawley hoax. And another index of his self-vaunted leadership qualities is his silence concerning Khallid Muhammad’s “march” of open-ended bigotry when so many other black leaders have advised people to stay away.
But it was fitting that his “No Justice! No Peace!” was also shouted by Jews. Maybe that will awaken more New Yorkers to the systematic, fundamental problems with this police department— including the training of officers. I have yet to see a serious analysis of what actually is taught at the Police Academy— and by whom. Who trains and monitors the instructors?
I am told, for instance, that only 16 hours of training there is given on how to deal with emotionally disturbed people.
But, as I’ll try to indicate in future columns, there is so much more to be done to rehabilitate the NYPD— against the strenuous opposition of Giuliani and Safir, who, by their self-protecting denial of reality, have done more to harm the department than all of its critics, responsible and irresponsible.
I do not write as a cop hater. When the Voice once gave me a dinner to commemorate my having been here since the Spanish-American War, two of the friends I invited were detectives from the homicide squad. And some of my best sources for Voice pieces have been cops disgusted at what they see around them— particularly as they look at superior officers who, like the mayor and the commissioner, are in denial, or worse.
One aspect of the Borough Park story I have not seen in the press, as of this writing, is a report by a caller to Brian Lehrer on WNYC that a volunteer ambulance— a Jewish ambulance staffed and paid for by the community— was prevented for 15 minutes by the police from getting in to attend to Busch as he was bleeding to death.
If this is true, will the commander of that division be held accountable?
There is also a question for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her husband has been a fiercer supporter of the police than any recent president. That’s why there is often— in a photo op— a blue wall of rank-and-filers and police chiefs behind him when he announces new death penalties, as in his Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which greatly extended many law-enforcement powers of very dubious constitutionality.
As Hillary Rodham Clinton “listens” to New Yorkers, how will she react, if at all, to shouts of “No Justice! No Peace!”— and not only in “minority” neighborhoods?
Will her huge press entourage ask her reaction to the killing of Gidone Busch?