NYPD Can't Be Bothered to Report on the Black Kids It Kills
Over the past few months, Constance Malcolm has watched with shared sympathy as mother after mother stands before a sea of microphones to demand justice for her son, killed at the hands of a police officer sworn to protect and serve the people.
In February 2012, those same hot, angry, disbelieving tears flooded down Malcolm’s cheeks as she stood before the cameras to call for justice for her 18-year-old son, Ramarley Graham, who was killed by an NYPD officer in the family’s small Bronx apartment.
Her son’s death made headlines around the country. Protesters carried signs demanding “Justice for Graham” through the streets of New York. His parents joined them, wearing shirts with his face printed on them. Two grand juries would deliberate over the case, and the US Department of Justice would eventually open a civil rights investigation.
The FBI, however, has no record of Graham’s death. According to the department, the NYPD did not report officer-involved shooting data to the FBI for 2010, 2011 or 2012.
“This honestly doesn’t surprise me,” Malcolm told the Guardian. “Most of the people being killed by police are black or Latino. I think they feel our lives aren’t worth the paperwork.”
“[The officers] don’t want this to be published. They don’t want us to know the real number of people they’ve killed because this would show the true color of the police,” she said.
Malcolm joined the nascent Black Lives Matter movement after her son’s death because she said she realized then just how heavily the justice system was weighted against people of color.
“I’m angry. I am so angry,” said Malcolm, who still lives in the same Bronx apartment.
“My son’s killer is still walking free,” she said. “How can I not be angry knowing that this man is out there collecting a paycheck while I have to wake up every day without my son.”
On 2 February 2012, Graham was chased into his family’s apartment by an officer with the New York police department, after a member of the narcotics unit noticed the teen adjust his waistband while standing in front of a neighborhood bodega.
Officer Richard Haste and his partner trailed the teen, with their guns drawn, forced their way into his apartment, and cornered him in his bathroom, as he allegedly flushed a small bag of marijuana down the toilet.
At this point, Haste said Graham reached for his waistband, and based on this behavior suspected him of possessing a gun.
Fearing for his life, Haste said, he fired his gun, fatally shooting the teen in the chest in front of his grandmother and brother, who was just six at the time. He was unarmed, and no gun was recovered from the home.
During the first grand jury proceedings, a Bronx judge threw out the murder charges against Haste on a technicality, and a second grand jury declined to bring charges. The Department of Justice investigation into whether NYPD officers violated the family’s civil rights has stretched into a second year.
The city recently agreed to pay Malcolm’s family $3.9m to settle a federal lawsuit filed in the wake of Graham’s death. But money doesn’t help Malcolm sleep at night, she said.
Malcolm said better federal record-keeping might help expose the extent of police killings. Locally, she is part of a group that’s called on the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, to appoint special prosecutors to cases involving police use of deadly force.
Though Malcolm said she was hopeful the recent attention around the Black Lives Matter movement would bring about reforms, she said justice would not be served, in her view, until her son’s killer was brought to trial.
“There was no gun. This was inside my home. My mom was there. If that isn’t a civil rights violation, I don’t know what is,” Malcolm said.
Despite the high bar to a federal civil rights charge, and the disappointing findings by the Department of Justice in the case of Trayvon Martin, Malcolm said she was still hopeful federal investigators would find sufficient evidence to prosecute Haste.
“I’m relying on the Department of Justice,” Malcolm said. “Maybe the system doesn’t work for us, but that’s all we have right now. What else are we going to do?”
“This honestly doesn’t surprise me,” Malcolm told the Guardian. “Most of the people being killed by police are black or Latino. I think they feel our lives aren’t