Niarchos: A history of brutality

On Tuesday, I was greeted with the headline in Kathimerini, Greece’s paper of record, “Guilty verdicts for policemen in teen murder trial.” On the night of December 6, 2008, the court found that officer Epaminodas Korkoneas willfully murdered 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos while his fellow policeman, Vassilis Saraliotis, watched on. Korkoneas was sentenced to life imprisonment and Saraliotis to 10 years behind bars.

The teen’s murder sparked some of the worst rioting Greece has ever seen. The verdict has only partially assured the populace that the state — and its repressive arm, the police — has not armed itself against them. But at the same time, Greeks can sleep safely knowing that their police force will be subject to the same the laws as the general public.

This state of affairs does not exist in New Haven.

Last week, after listening to the assurances of Rob Smuts ’01, the city’s chief administrative officer, I felt confident that policemen, if found guilty of a crime, would be duly held to account. Unfortunately, the veil was lifted this past Monday, when I attended a brutality-awareness meeting of “Copwatch” at the New Haven People’s Center.

I learned that the NHPD, the East Haven PD, and even the YPD have been accused of terrible crimes. And the Citizen’s Review Board (CRB) that oversees the police complaints process has been unable to help them.

All of the CRB’s members must be approved of by the Board of Police Commissioners; one is appointed by them directly. An impartial and representative group indeed.

But even if the CRB did decide that the internal police investigation was flawed, it has incredibly limited powers:

“a. recommend further investigation;

b. inform the Chief that the Board believes that the IA’s [Internal Affairs Unit’s] determination was biased or incomplete;

c. state that the investigation appears to have been complete and unbiased;

d. recommend such other actions the Board deems appropriate.”

Recommending, informing, and stating: hardly a mandate for change. So even in the unlikely event that a review board, appointed and approved by the police were to rule against the police, they could only recommend that the authorities look at it again. This doesn’t sound very much like justice to me.

The stories that were told that night, though unverified, have angered me even more than the alleged brutality at Elevate two weeks ago. I heard police in East Haven had beaten an Hispanic man almost to death, while his entire soccer team, his wife, and children pleaded with them to stop. His crime? Getting out of his car. Another man was assaulted for asking why his friend was arrested. A Yale student was beaten for sitting on his porch and asking an officer a question. The list went on, and worse, pointed to a pattern of racially-motivated violence.

Sickening as they are, the aforementioned stories aren’t yet verified. (The CRB hasn’t been able to say if any crime has been committed; I wonder why?) But I can verify the story of Malik Jones, who was executed in his car by Sgt. Flodqist in 1997. The officer’s punishment? A few months’ suspension and a promotion upon return. And what about the story of Officer Dennis O’Connell, a policeman who has been banned from a housing project because of his history of racially-motivated violence? O’Connell hasn’t even been taken off the streets.

Faced with the prospect of police whitewash, Yalies need to wake up; police brutality is horribly prevalent in our city. We must join with New Havenites to keep the police force accountable. Putting pressure on the City to try police in civilian courts is one way, but another is to simply remain aware. Film policemen when you see them attacking a fellow citizen. Call them out for their actions. Send a message that we will no longer stand this behavior.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the students who were allegedly attacked at Elevate. But I can say that I am glad, even, that the Elevate raid happened. Our enemy has been revealed; the crimes of the police of this city have been brought to the attention of the student body. It is now our duty as citizens — and as human beings — to stop them.

Nicolas Niarchos is a senior in Trumbull College and a former arts & living editor for the News.

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    Even 40 years isn’t long enough to get to the truth. Investigations are soothing, but ineffective.
    PK
    [link text][1]

    October 12, 2010 from michaelmoore.com

    “Now [2010] we have a tape that proves conclusively that four shots were fired before the National Guard volley [at Kent State, May 4, 1970],” Congressman Dennis Kucinich said. “That has implications that are tremendous. Who knows what would have happened if those shots hadn’t been fired.” Terry Norman [a student informer working for the FBI that day] has not commented about his activities at Kent State since the day of the shootings and his whereabouts are currently unknown. Kent State family members, as well as Representative Kucinich, have called for Mr. Norman to step forward to deliver information about his involvement at Kent State.

    http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/must-read/kent-state-truth-tribunal-hears-new-forensic-evidence-clear-order-fire-kent-state-backs-rep-kucinich-call-open-inquiry

    [1]: http://theantiyale.blogspot.com

  • waldo

    Perhaps a little melodramatic? And the police are now our enemy? Are you serious? It’s always funny to listen to people condemn the police as a group instead of as individuals. A cop murdered someone… oh, cops are corrupt. Now, don’t get me wrong… there are bad cops. Some are lazy, some are overweight, and some were picked on in high-school. And then there are cops that abuse power, much like there are priests, soldiers, legacy students, and presidents who do the same. However, bad cops are not the norm, and the vast majority will not tolerate anyone, cop or otherwise, behaving illegally. Civilian complaint review boards are exactly that, review boards. If one finds an allegation of police misconduct credible, then their recommendation is taken very seriously. Do you think the mayor, police chief, and other officers will all risk their careers for a single bad cop? If so, you’re mistaken. As a young NYPD officer, I saw my fair share of time in front of civilian review boards. Wrote one man a ticket and he thought filing a complaint against me would “get back at me”. Unfounded. Accused of excessive force by a man who assaulted another with a hammer because I put him down hard when he resisted. Unfounded. Now, as a fellow Yale undergrad, I find the broad stroke with which you paint not only ignorant and insulting, but a disservice to the student body and community you claim to represent. Not only that, but your facts are as misrepresented as possible. Officer Flodquist (who I assume you’re referring to above) didn’t just simply shoot a man sitting in his car. He shot a man who, after a high-speed chase, attempted to hit him with a car, which is an attempt on the officer’s life. Have a conversation with the NHPD officers who patrol the streets for us every day. They’re good people… honest, hardworking people, who more than anything else, don’t want you to experience the other side of New Haven. Take your videos and “hold them accountable”, but don’t misrepresent them. Give them the respect they deserve.

  • FreddyHoneychurch

    @ waldo

    Certainly not all police are violent or corrupt, but for every one that is, fifty stand by and do nothing when they are witnesses to an abuse of power. Therein lies the community’s collective frustration. If you’ve not had to deal with police violence yourself, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard direct accounts from a brother, sister, father, friend. There’s no conspiracy of the citizenry. Nor do the fine things that officers do every single day (i.e., their jobs) have anything to do with it. Being a top-notch cop for your entire career doesn’t cancel out the crime of abusing just one citizen even a single time at the end of a long day. We give police such outsized respect — a respect derived from the office we confer on them, not a respect related to them as individuals — because we can and should and do hold them to the very highest standard of integrity.

  • FailBoat

    Mr. Niarchos elides the facts:

    > But I can verify the story of Malik Jones, who was executed in his car by Sgt. Flodqist in 1997. The officer’s punishment? A few months’ suspension and a promotion upon return.

    Malik Jones was shot at the end of a high-speed chase in which four police cars chased down and cornered Jones’ car – allegedly for reckless driving. Flodqist and several other police officers have said that Jones attempted to run over Flodqist. I find it intriguing that Niarchos can verify Jones’ side and ascertain the truth in this story when others apparently cannot.

    > And what about the story of Officer Dennis O’Connell, a policeman who has been banned from a housing project because of his history of racially-motivated violence? O’Connell hasn’t even been taken off the streets.

    Again, fascinating that Mr. Niarchos knows the outcome of what is an open case in federal court. O’Connell, as far as I can tell, was removed from patrolling a particular housing project due to the pending allegations against him, not due to any admission of wrongdoing, racial or otherwise.

  • YaleMom

    This article is making me sad! Even Greece is safer than Yale!