New York police officers have yet to hold a “no justice, no peace” rally in Brooklyn, where three black thugs in a stolen BMW fatally gunned down Officer Russel Timoshenko on July 9. Nor have New York’s Finest stopped patrolling Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Central Harlem, where they put their lives at risk every day to protect residents from violent crime.
Yet under the race-baiting precedents established by Al Sharpton, New York City Councilman (and former Black Panther) Charles Barron, and New York Times columnists and editors, the police have more than enough grounds for racial complaint. Blacks are blowing away police officers at rates far exceeding their own numbers. Nationally, blacks made up 40 percent of all cop killers from 1994 to 2005, even though they are only 13.4 percent of the American population.
That fact is not allowed in polite company, however, because race-baiting is tolerated in only one direction. Any time an officer shoots a black civilian, he runs a risk of igniting protest in the African-American “community.” (Even if the officer is black, he will be treated as an honorary white for purposes of denouncing cop racism, as the shooting of Sean Bell last November demonstrated.) The media will turn out in force for all such anticop demonstrations, lovingly documenting every gesture of black rage. But justified police shootings constitute only a minute fraction—and unjustified police shootings, an almost imperceptible fraction—of homicides of blacks, virtually all of which are committed by other blacks. New York police killed nine civilians in 2005, for example, all of whom had attacked the officers first, compared with hundreds upon hundreds of black-on-black killings. But blacks can shoot whites—police officer and civilian alike—without anyone’s organizing a street demonstration about it, much less daring to point out the pattern. Perhaps such incidents are just dog-bites-man stories, too much part of the normal order of things to be considered noteworthy.
Indeed, Timoshenko’s assailants and the circumstances of the killing will be all too familiar to anyone remotely familiar with today’s violent criminals. Officers Timoshenko and Herman Yan pulled over a BMW sport utility vehicle at 2:30 am in Brooklyn on July 9 after noticing that the license plate did not match the vehicle. As the officers approached the stolen SUV on foot, its occupants opened fire, shooting Timoshenko in the face and throat and Yan in the arm and torso. Timoshenko was instantly brain-damaged and paralyzed from the neck down; after five days in a coma, he died. Yan lost so much blood that he required surgery.
These cold-blooded acts were just the latest atrocities committed by two lifelong criminals, at least one of whom should have been locked up for good years ago. Dexter Bostic, who shot Timoshenko, was arrested for rape, assault, and robbery at age 16; after spending nine years behind bars, he was convicted again for an armed robbery committed less than a year after his release from prison. Yet he was back on the street in 2004 after a mere three years in jail, and he has apparently been continuing his crime spree. Robert Ellis, who shot Yan, was convicted as a teenager of rape and sodomy. The driver of the stolen SUV, Lee Woods, also began his criminal career as a teen, serving time for possession of a loaded gun and assault on an officer. He continued his violence in jail against prison guards and other inmates.
It is precisely the risk of coming unawares upon such demons that makes car stops so dangerous. Timoshenko and Yan had no idea who was in the SUV when they approached it. They probably didn’t even know that the occupants were black. But if they did, their street experience would have told them that they were at a far higher risk of encountering felons than if the occupants were white. Any given violent crime in New York City is 13 times more likely to have a black than a white perpetrator. Blacks committed 68.5 percent of all murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults in the city in 2006, according to victims and witnesses, even though they are only 24 percent of New York City’s population. Whites, who make up 34.5 percent of New Yorkers, committed 5.3 percent of violent crimes. Yet despite these elevated risks, police officers continue to give their all to minority neighborhoods, cherishing the belief that the good people in those communities support and need them.
Whites are hardly immune from socially destructive mayhem, of course. In Greenwich Village last March, David Garvin killed two auxiliary police officers, Nicholas Pekearo and Yevgeniy Marshalik, after shooting a pizzeria worker. Such atrocities are every bit as disgusting as black-inflicted violence, but statistically, they are much, much rarer. Pointing this out is a major breach of racial etiquette.
The Timoshenko tragedy came at the end of a particularly egregious period in the New York Times’s policing coverage. In late May, residents and elected officials in Bushwick, Brooklyn, had urgently warned the 83rd Precinct that the Pretty Boy Family gang (PBF) would use the funeral of a member as an opportunity to wreak vengeance against the Linden Street Bloods (LSB), who had murdered him. The retaliation had already begun with the stomping and beating of several LSB members. On the day of the funeral, one mother told local police that she was frightened that her son, an LSB member, would be killed. As PBF members, sporting gang bandannas, congregated for the funeral, the 83rd Precinct’s black executive officer observed them making gang signals. Then the group took over the street, some of its members walking on top of cars. The commander ordered 32 of the marchers arrested for unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct, netting several warrant absconders in the process.
The Times’s editors and its columnist Bob Herbert fit this episode of sound preventive policing into the usual story line about racist officers preying on innocent minority youth. In article after article, they portrayed the gang members as law-abiding paragons, taking their description of the events as unimpeachable and even giving them a large photo spread, suitable for framing.
Then it was on to the next alleged police atrocity. Herbert generated a series of columns from a New York Civil Liberties Union report claiming that police officers assigned to city schools routinely abused students and arrested them for innocuous high jinks. No reporting, of course, on the 192 robberies, 5 rapes, 247 felony assaults, 138 burglaries, and 580 grand larcenies that students committed in school in 2006–07—a fearsome total, but 26 percent smaller than six years ago, thanks in part to the NYPD. The Times’s writers cribbed an editorial off Herbert’s columns, repeating his charges and calling for the New York City Council—that esteemed body of public-safety experts—to scrutinize all student arrests and convictions for misuse of police power.
Some portion of the teens whom the NYPD is picking up in its antigang and school enforcement activities will make up the next generation of career criminals like Dexter Bostic and Robert Ellis. Perhaps if the rest of the criminal-justice system performed its duties as diligently as the NYPD does, there would be fewer of them to terrorize communities and, on occasion, take officers’ lives.
Indifferent to charges of hypocrisy, Bob Herbert has now taken up the theme of how America supposedly ignores young minority homicide victims. Writing about a spate of Chicago gang killings, he recently intoned: “This should be a major national story, of course, and it would be if the slain children had come from more privileged backgrounds. But these are the kids that most of America cares nothing about—black, Latin and poor.” It never occurs to Herbert that the police are the one group who most definitely cannot be accused of caring nothing about “black, Latin and poor” kids; but for their efforts in inner-city neighborhoods, hundreds more minority youngsters in New York would have died over the last decade. If Herbert wants to make a similar contribution, he might try patrolling every night in drug-ridden housing projects, working to get guns out of the hands of reckless adolescents.
The Times’s latest misinformed writing almost certainly played no role in Timoshenko’s murder. But it is not so easy to rule out influence from the general atmosphere of anticop animus to which the Times and other elite organs contribute. With so many voices—from gangsta rappers to politicians to members of the press—dehumanizing officers and portraying them as predators on black people, Bostic and Ellis may well have felt that they were taking out their racial enemies when they opened fire. Those members of the Pretty Boy Family gang whom the Times turned into poster boys for police victimization will likely go through life feeling righteous about their loathing for the police. Sit in on any support group for juvenile parolees and probationers, and the cop-hatred that you hear will chill you.
The police are not going to demonstrate against black criminals who endanger their lives—nor should they. But it would be nice if, for once, so-called minority leaders could bestir themselves to demonstrate in favor of fallen officers. Would it have killed Al Sharpton or Charles Barron to have sent a group of their regulars to the indictments of Bostic, Ellis, and Jones, to protest the taking of officers’ lives? Could they at least pretend to acknowledge the sacrifices that the police make for their “community”? Bob Herbert or the New York Times editorialists might have written a column thanking the families of Timoshenko and Yan for their service and calling for the killing to stop. Right now, young gangbangers and their associates can pretend to be racial-justice crusaders when they assault police officers, interfere with police chases of criminals, and refuse to cooperate with investigations—and that attitude can have deadly real-world consequences, as Russel Timoshenko’s family has learned.