Hearing On Police Accountability

On Monday, I attended a public Hearing held in lower Manhattan convened in the wake of the Sean Bell verdict, to address ways to increase police accountability. I wrote about what went on at the hearing for the Huffington Post.

Here are a few pictures (since I wasn’t allowed to take any at trial):

Representative John Conyers from Michigan who chairs the House Judiciary Committee and who called the Hearing. He’s in the middle. Rep. Jerrold Nadler from NY is to his right.

Rep. Charles Rangel from NY (Nadler is to his left).

Nicole Paultre Bell (Sean Bell’s fiance) addressing the committee and the crowd.

Joseph Guzman, Sean Bell’s friend who the shooting officers wrongly thought had a gun and who was shot 19 times, sustaining permanent nerve damage, testifying briefly as well.

Al Sharpton (resting his chin in his hand) is preparing to testify, while listening to Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP, sitting next to him, as she speaks.

There was a pretty good turnout.

My favorite witness was Kamau Karl Franklin, a race justice fellow at the prestigious Center For Constitutional Rights here in NY. He had some very intriguing ideas for new legislation, which I wrote about here.


  1. Was there discussion about the use of undercover cops to not gather evidence but to make arrests?

    It would seem that the way to approach these situations to call in the uniformed cops to actually make the collar so that the suspects don’t think they are the victims of some sort of community/gang type hits. I suspect in the Bell case if uniformed officers approached them after they had left the club this would not have happened. Bell panicked and thought he was about to be killed by some thugs. He was right.

  2. Well in the Bell case I think the team leader, Lt. Napoli, was responsible for a lot of what happened. He wasn’t charged but I’ve heard he is under internal investigation, though I don’t know if that’s true. Before the team goes out each night, they have a meeting where they decide who will play which role: primary undercover, ghost undercover (who watches out for the primary), arresting officer, driver of the prisoner van, etc. The arresting officer here was the driver of Napoli’s car, Det. Headley, and Isnora was the primary undercover. The primary undercover is never the one who’s supposed to make stops or arrests; the undercover makes the drug buy, walks off, calls the team, and the arresting officer moves in and makes the stop, and, after the undercover drives by and identifies the suspect as the guy who sold the drugs, the arresting officer then makes the arrest.

    Here, Isnora called Napoli and told him three men were walking toward a car and he thought they were intending to get a gun to do a drive-by of Coicou. Napoli told him to keep following them and the team was coming to make the stop. Napoli then radioed to the prisoner van — driven by Oliver — to “move in”, but according to the officers in the van he didn’t tell them where they were supposed to go or who they were looking for. Carey, the officer in Oliver’s car, tried to call Napoli for further instructions, but Napoli didn’t respond. They finally saw Napoli’s car around the club area and followed it, still not knowing who they were looking for or where they were supposed to be. Meanwhile, Isnora saw Bell, Guzman and Benefield get into their car, and then saw Napoli’s car turn the corner onto the street. Isnora motioned to Napoli and Headley that this is the car they were supposed to stop, but they drove right by, and continued going right on down the street. Isnora figured they didn’t see him since they just kept driving. In his testimony, Napoli wasn’t really clear why he kept on driving. He said he saw Isnora and figured they’d drive down the block, pull over, try to find the police light to put atop the car, etc. etc. – this all takes time and the guys in the car are getting ready to pull away. I don’t know what he was thinking. I don’t understand why he didn’t have Headley get out of the car right then and make the stop. Why drive by? Meanwhile, after motioning to Napoli and seeing him drive right by, Isnora looked back at Bell’s car to see Guzman looking right at him, seeing his gun drawn, and, he thought, his police shield. He said it looked like Guzman was reaching into his waistband for a gun, Isnora said “police, don’t move,” and their car drove forward and grazed his leg and ran into Oliver’s van, who was still following Napoli, not knowing what else they were looking for. Bell’s car backed up again, into Isnora’s path, then forward again, and when it stopped Isnora said he thought Guzman was reaching for a gun and was going to shoot him. So, not having the time to wait for Napoli and Headley to get their acts together and come make the stop, he fired. So, basically, Isnora, who had no intention of making a stop, but only following the men until Headley got there to make the stop, ended up doing so by default, and obviously badly. Things would have been much different had Napoli stopped the car and Headley got out with his badge around his neck and effectuated the stop.

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