The New York Times
by James B. Olsen, editor: In the days since the New York City Police Department released surveillance video of the shooting of a homeless man by a police officer, the story has largely been about the man’s mental health.
But the underlying issue, as with so many in America, has long been race.
As a young black man in a predominantly white city, he was the target of police violence, often with fatal results.
The man, Anthony Smith, was a former gang member who spent time in jail, was repeatedly targeted by police, and was repeatedly beaten, robbed, and threatened.
After his death, the New Orleans Police Department announced a major expansion of the force’s use of force policy, requiring officers to be armed.
The change was meant to stem a surge in killings of African-American men by police in New Orleans in recent years.
But as a New Yorker, I was surprised by the outpouring of support for Smith’s family.
It’s easy to forget that many of the men we’ve come to call our sons have also suffered violence.
They are our brothers and sisters, and we know how difficult it is to hold them accountable for their actions.
And the NYPD is not alone in its response to the death of Anthony Smith.
Many of the country’s largest cities have adopted similar policies in recent months.
This week, Chicago police announced that they had deployed more than 1,500 officers to the city’s South Side, and plans are in the works to increase the number of officers patrolling the city.
In Minneapolis, police officers have been deployed to patrol at least two blocks of the city, and are making a conscious effort to use body cameras and other tools to identify officers who have made questionable stops.
Police in New York, where a video shows a police shooting last year of a black man, are also deploying more officers.
New York has been criticized for its response, and the city has taken steps to address police brutality, including the passage of a sweeping bill that makes it illegal for police officers to shoot at unarmed people.
But this kind of response from a city that has made strides to curb its own racial disparities in policing has raised a fundamental question about how police departments are responding to these situations.
When the officers are the victims of violence, does the city do enough to protect its citizens?
I want to talk about why that question matters.
This piece is from our May 5, 2018 issue.