An off-duty New York police officer recently told me something to the effect of, "Everything you think about New York City cops, it's true. We think we're God's gift." That could probably be said about select cops in any town, but the NYPD is the world's most famous police force and one can easily imagine the position going to their 34,500 heads. Perhaps that's why a group of six felt entitled to allegedly beat a gay man in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn recently. Or maybe the men were homophobic. Or maybe both.
The cops meanwhile are being investigated by Internal Affairs not only for their over-the-top and violent reaction, but also for allegedly calling Williams and his friends, including Antonio Maenza, who also claims police attempted to break into his phone to delete video of the incident, "faggots." I can't quite hear that slur on this video -- though one can clearly hear Maenza and another friend, Ben Collins, calling the police "fat pigs" after civil discourse broke down -- but Internal Affairs thinks there's enough reason to look into the matter, and the Anti-Violence Project is also getting involved: they've called a press conference for 1pm today to discuss the Williams situation and the NYPD's unprofessional conduct in general:
"Police Violence is a pervasive problem facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people in New York City. AVP contributed local data to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2012 which was released one week ago, on June 4th, 2013.
In the local findings, AVP found that in 2012, nearly 40% of survivors interacting with the police in New York City reported police misconduct. Reports of police misconduct increased significantly from 8 in 2011 to 78 in 2012. The report also found that survivor reports of hostile attitudes from police doubled in 2012, with 43 reports, up from 21 in 2011."
As we prepare to hear each side of the story, and perhaps settle in for a lengthy investigation, the questions to consider are whether the cops reacted so aggressively because Williams and his friends are gay or because the police officers believed they can get away with anything? And will this incident, currently isolated to the gay community, have an impact on the NYPD's interactions with the rest of the city?
(Image of Williams by Caleb Ferguson.)