Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sean Bell Settlement Reached for $7 Million of Taxpayer Money

The family and friends of Sean Bell will receive more than $7 million from the city stemming from the shooting of Bell and his two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. The settlement is a large one, but it doesn't beat out the settlement reached last month in the case of Barry Gibbs, a man who spent 19 years behind bars after being framed by an NYPD detective for murder. Gibbs will receive $9.9 million from the city.

So who pays the $17 million for police malfeasance? You and I do, of course. Despite the fact that we know who pulled the triggers that killed Bell and injured his friends - Marc Cooper, Gescard Isnora (who fired the first shot), and Michael Oliver (who fired 31 shots, requiring a magazine change) - none of these men will be contributing to the $7 million settlement. This is also not the first time Michael Oliver has cost the city more money than he's worth: in 1995 Oliver shoved a livery cab driver's head into a car window, resulting in a $10,000 settlement to the victim. Somehow Oliver kept his job so he could later cost the city even more money in the Bell case.

I also want to go back to something I explored in a previous post during the criminal trial:
But this begs the question: if the justice system thinks that these officers did nothing wrong, why settle with the families? By giving someone money (which is a shitty substitute for seeing those who killed your loved one put to justice), are you not admitting wrongdoing? If the NYPD is just doing what they're trained to do by gunning down these unarmed black men, then why pay the families of those who obviously had to be doing something wrong to get such a violent response from these trained officers?
Why is the city so willing to shovel out money when it comes to wrongdoing by their employees but will vigorously defend said employees against criminal charges? When has throwing money at the problem been beneficial for anybody other than those on the receiving end of this sympathy payment?

When the city is cash strapped and desperate for anything to bring in revenue, to give away $17 million because of corrupt/trigger-happy policemen is a travesty. Unfortunately the city set themselves up for this for not a) getting rid of Michael Oliver the first time he cost the city money and b) not training its officers to not kill unarmed civilians. The worst part is the fact that those who had nothing to do with Sean Bell's killing - the taxpayers of this city - are on the hook for those who did.

Photo - Bell's friend Joseph Guzman (l.) and Bell's fiance Nicole Paultre Bell (New York Times)

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