This past Saturday, thousands of Asian Americans gathered in Cadman Plaza Park to protest the conviction of rookie NYPD Officer Peter Liang. Liang was prosecuted and convicted for fatally shooting Akai Gurley in the stairwell of an East New York housing project. Gurley was 28-years-old. He was African American and he was unarmed.
Protesters claimed that Officer Liang's shooting of Gurley was an accident and that he was being used as a "scapegoat" and was the victim of "anti police politics" because he is Asian-American.
Like many New Yorkers, I followed the 2014 news accounts of the shooting. From the very beginning, Officer Liang claimed that the shooting of Gurley, which happened inside the stairwell of the Louis Pink Houses was an accident.
According to the New York Post article that appeared on February 20, 2016, " Liang fired his gun after hearing a noise while conducting a vertical patrol in a darkened stairwell. The bullet ricocheted off a cinder-block wall and struck Gurley, an unarmed black man, in the chest."
Chinese activists are crusading against Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, calling his prosecution of Liang a "persecution." According to Saturday's NY Post article, " Many in the crowd maintained Liang was
prosecuted because he is a minority, while white cops involved in fatal incidents against African-Americans were not."
Liang was convicted on February 11, 2016, of manslaughter and misconduct charges for the November 2014 shooting. He was terminated from the police force once the verdict was delivered.
Liang is not the first police officer to be prosecuted and convicted by public opinion before standing trial and it's clear he will not be the last.
An article that appeared in the Huffington Post on October 22, 2015 entitled "5 facts about police brutality in the United States that will shock you", reads, "October 22 is also known as National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization of the Entire Generation. The event, which is overseen by the October 22 Coalition, is held in many major cities and towns across the United States. The occasion, which has occurred every year since 1996, hopes to bring together those under the gun and those not under the gun as a powerful voice to expose the epidemic of police brutality, according to the October 22 Coalition's website."
The article goes on to list some staggering statistics collected from various reports about the number of people who have been killed by police officers stating, "For every 1,000 people killed by police, only one officer is convicted of a crime."
However, nowhere does the article speak about the 1,400 Police Officers who have been killed in the line of duty over the past decade. Nor does it disclose what the people who were killed by police officers were doing at the time of their death or whether or not they had a criminal record.
The October 22 Coalition has an entire website geared toward, in their words, "...being a powerful voice to expose the epidemic of police brutality." Between the information on the website and in the Huffington Post, the reader is left with the impression that police officers are randomly killing innocent people - specifically, people of color.
According to Payscale.com, "A Police Officer in the US earns an average salary of $48,815.00 per year." According to the same website, a Master Plumber earns an average salary of $55,000.00. A leading cause of injury for plumbers is, "lifting heavy or awkwardly sized objects," while police officers leave their home everyday not knowing if they will return.
Think about it, police officers willingly and selflessly put themselves in harms way trying to protect strangers from criminals. When we need them we call and expect them to be there at a moment's notice. We want them to anticipate when a crime is going to happen without giving them the tools to do so. "Stop and Frisk" is just one of the tools law enforcement used to keep us safe but they are banned from using it in New York City - a city of 8 million people where danger lurks everywhere.
On a larger scale, take a look at Apple and its refusal to cooperate with the FBI to help them get into the phone of one of the terrorists who killed innocent people in San Bernadino. Apple says that it wants to protect the privacy of its customers, but how valuable is privacy when you or other innocent people are dead?
As American taxpayers we want to protect ourselves and our rights and we get angry when we that government service is lacking. How many times have you witnessed wrong doing on the street or read a story about a crime and wondered "Where were the police?" When you drive down the street of a "bad" neighborhood seeing business after business shuttered up but drinking and drug deals taking place out in the open, how many times have you thought to yourself, "Why don't the police do something?" The fact of the matter is that the majority of citizens feel more secure when they see police on the street. We want them there to protect us, but unfortunately, all across America, anit-police groups are winning their battle to strip police of the tools they need to do so.
I am not certain what happened in that stairwell between Officer Liang and Mr, Gurley or what Officer Liang was thinking when he fired his gun. What I do know is that 1,500 Asian Americans descended on Cadman Plaza Saturday claiming that Liang is being persecuted because he is a minority. After reading the news articles and doing a little research of my own, to me it looks like Officer Liang was being persecuted because he chose to become a cop in a society that is being becoming more and more anti-cop.
If society continues to convict cops in the court of public opinion before they have had an opportunity to stand trial, I wonder how many young people will take the risk of hurting themselves carrying heavy equipment as plumbers instead of taking the risk of being shot, run over or prosecuted as a cop.