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THE LOUIMA CASE IS NOT DEAD __ Schwarz May Be the Fall Guy 
The Village Voice Published October 6 - 12, 1999 by Nat Hentoff

Let us examine the illusion nurtured both by the mayor and the U.S.
Attorney's office for the Eastern District? that justice was finally
thumpingly served in the  Louima case. When Justin Volpe, the terrorist
in blue who tortured Abner Louima,was convicted, Giuliani and his
papier-mâché police commissioner, Howard Safir, triumphantly announced
that the notorious blue wall of silence had been broken. Justin Volpe
was hardly alone with Louima in the 70th Precinct that night.   But, to
begin with, as Boston civil rights­civil liberties lawyer Harvey
Silvergate  pointed out in The National Law Journal: 

 "The Louima case was broken not because the four testifying officers
volunteered  their knowledge at the start, but rather, because a
civilian nurse at Coney Island Hospital dropped a dime by telling a New
York Daily News reporter [Mike McAlary] that the police had just brought
in a seriously injured black man who appeared to  have been sodomized
with a stick."  If McAlary had ignored that call? as the NYPD's Internal
Affairs Division did?  wouldn't Volpe still be walking a beat in
Brooklyn?  Another black man was beaten that night by Volpe's
colleagues. Jim Dwyer, in the May 23 Daily News, remembered Patrick
Antoine, "who was picked up and beaten apparently because he was a
Haitian and walking along the street. . . . Had Louima not been
subjected to dungeon-style torture, Antoine would have been another guy
who was mistakenly arrested, clobbered, and never heard from again."    
No cop has been charged with police brutality against Patrick Antoine.
But Charles  Schwarz, the one cop convicted with Volpe for helping him
sodomize Louima, may be the fall guy. Schwarz deserves a new trial
(Murray Weiss, New York Post, August 16).  When police sergeant Kenneth
Wernick testified, at last, against Volpe, he said Volpe bragged about
the exploratory work he had accomplished in the  precinct-house
bathroom: "He said he took a stick and put it 5 or 6 inches up his    
ass."  But Wernick did not report what he had heard that night. ("I
walked away, I didn't want to be involved at any point.")  As Jim Dwyer
noted, "it was Wernick's job to arrest Volpe and let a jury decide if
his insane boasts were true. And what of the other officers there who
either have   remained silent or came forward only when their jobs were
in danger?" None of those cops still crouched behind the blue wall of
silence have been publicly, individually, shamed by the police
commissioner. And, of those who came  forward, Wernick suddenly won his
long coveted promotion to sergeant. Said  Dwyer: "The Police Department
has decided that his record of not arresting Volpe for admitted torture,
or even seeing to Louima's health as he lay bleeding in a cell,qualifies
Wernick to be a sergeant."  But, speaking of qualifications for setting
standards of accountability for the NYPD, look at who's the police
commissioner. Safir's own blue wall keeps growing like   Pinocchio's
nose.  Dwyer interviewed some of the jurors in the Louima case after
Safir and Giuliani had  heralded the police witnesses as heroes. "I
didn't view the police witnesses as hero cops," said one juror. "No one
testified freely. Everyone had something to lose or  gain." Because of
what happened to Abner Louima? along with myriad other cases of    
police brutality (some of which have cost the city, and us taxpayers,
millions of dollars in settlements of lawsuits)? federal prosecutors
have been investigating how the NYPD handles brutality complaints. City
comptroller Alan Hevesi projects a 1999 payout of $40 million for police
brutality cases, an increase of 41 percent in  one year. If Giuliani and
Safir remain in dishonest denial of the facts on the ground, the       
Justice Department can appoint a federal monitor or some other form of
outside  oversight of the NYPD until it conforms to the Bill of Rights. 
But Giuliani has pledged he will not permit any outside interference
with, as he puts  it, "the most restrained police force in the nation." 
The only way to make the police accountable is for the next mayor to
pledge the  following unequivocal reforms: A wholly independent special
prosecutor with  subpoena power to deal with complaints of police
brutality and corruption. That  prosecutor should be appointed by the
governor.  Also, there must be an entirely independent civilian
complaint review board that,  with new legislation, would not have any
mayoral appointments. And the police commissioner would have no veto
power over its findings. They would go straight to the special
prosecutor. It's up to the next mayor.  Public advocate Mark Green has
discovered that hundreds of police brutality cases sent by the CCRB to
the police department as "substantiated" have been  summarily dismissed
by the NYPD.  The mayor now picks five members of the CCRB and has to
approve the five nominees submitted by the City Council. The police
commissioner picks three more, but even they have to be approved by the
mayor. Meanwhile, in a current police brutality case, four cops are on
trial for the vicious  beating of Reginald Bannerman, who later fell
onto subway tracks and was killed. Two of the cops are accused of the
actual beating and the other two are charged with covering it up. All
four cops are black.  Putting more blacks on the police force is no
guarantee of a reduction in brutality. Some of them fall into the
culture of the precinct. In this case, why is the  commander of the
precinct not up on departmental charges?   As for the Louima case, Eric
Adams of 100 Black Men in Law Enforcement says: "Any police officer
there the night Louima was brutalized was aware something illegal was
going on and is just as guilty as Volpe."