Monday, December 05, 2005

Stanley Crouch: This Killing Reminds Us Cops Stay When Others Run

New York Daily News -
Monday, December 5th, 2005

We should be able to understand the rage of the cops who were gathered in the lobby of the court to make their statement about Allan Cameron, who is accused of murdering Police Officer Dillon Stewart last Monday morning in Brooklyn. Stewart was shot in his police car after he had pulled alongside his killer. Cameron also is accused of wounding an off-duty officer at an earlier date. If it's all true, Cameron has been a very busy man.

One wonders what Stewart was thinking when he rolled up on the man who murdered him. Cops have told me that they often can feel death hiding out in the atmosphere and know that before their shift is over, someone is going to be snatched, pushed, stabbed, choked or shot from the world of the living into the long darkness from which no one returns. Of course, the cold shawl of darkness is never expected to be waiting for the officer who can feel it coming.

But it comes for whoever is available. The sympathetic noise of weeping and wailing will not be heard for long by the officer who usually does not know when the time has come for the last ride or the last walk or the last pursuit of a suspect. It goes down too fast, the cold comes over the body too quickly.

Whether life leaves them immediately or they seem to slowly edge over the cliff and take that far fall to somewhere that our eyes cannot perceive, it always feels as if it is moving at an express tempo and that we might have saved the one who is now a corpse if we had had more time.

Though Cameron pleaded not guilty, was caught with 53 bags of marijuana and says that he smokes marijuana "all day like everybody else in the ghetto," one wonders who will take this man seriously. Yes, he looks the stereotypical part of the purportedly anarchic young black man with the braided hair and the sweatshirt, but we all should know better than what that stereotype is supposed to tell us. If Cameron is proven guilty, it says nothing about braided hair, sweatshirts or young black men of any sort. If the majority of young black men who look like Cameron actually were violent criminals, our cities would have to be put under martial law because the cops wouldn't be able to handle them.

But what it is that the cops have to handle often is the result of the rough business that takes place around the sale of illegal drugs in any form, the natural plants that are bragged about because of their difference from the factory-produced powders and pills we call controlled substances. Such rough business demands a gun to protect one's product or one's turf. So perhaps what we need to think about is legalizing drugs in order to remove the profit, which just might remove the need for guns that harm so many people, in or out of law enforcement. I would rather see a lobby for that than waste money and time trying to get the death penalty back on the books.

The fact is that violent criminals are threats to everyone, even to young black men whose taste in clothes is either as casual or as bad as that of the criminals.

All we can hope for and continue to work toward is a much closer relationship between the cops and the honest people in our most dangerous communities. Even so, we should appreciate the fact that cops can end up facing danger anywhere, just as citizens can. The only big difference is that the citizens can run, but the cops shouldn't and almost never do. Dillon Stewart, like almost everyone on the NYPD, was one of those cops who do their job, no matter what it costs them.

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