I wrote the following letter to the editor of The Irish Echo in 2000. Patrick Lynch, the current President of the NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), had just been elected to his first term. Suffice it to say that he has continued acting in a despicable tradition, so what I wrote then still stands. Pictured above are Amadou Diallo and Anthony Baez, respectively.
The Harry Keaney profile of the new PBA president, Patrick Lynch, in the March 15-21 issue ignored the role that the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association plays in the defense of cops charged with brutality. While Lynch may represent an alternative to the leadership of the last 20-odd years in terms of his willingness to fight for real salary increases, he appears determined to carry on an even longer tradition of using the union’s significant resources and influence to protect those who deserve no protection.
In case after case, usually involving an assault on or murder of a non-white person, the PBA has orchestrated the playing out of a script which is intended to prevent an indictment, to come up with a good cover story (during the 48 hours after an incident when the cops can talk to each other but need not talk to others), to portray the victim as criminal or crazed, to rally off-duty cops outside and inside courtrooms in defense of the “cops’ point of view,” and to discredit witnesses who challenge the police version and, if necessary, to taunt the victim’s family. The classic elements of this script are evident in the Frederico Pereira killing in 1991, the Anthony Baez killing in 1994, and the Amadou Diallo killing in 1999. In the last case, the PBA spend a small fortune to secure the change of venue which resulted in the acquittal of the four officers charged in that killing.
If Lynch refuses to break with this tradition, he will be a “rebel with a cause” which is not worth defending. And if he wraps himself up in all the Irish flags he can buy, he still won’t be worth a defense. I don’t know what the union that represents the Royal Ulster Constabulary looks like to the Catholics of Belfast and Derry, but I am willing to bet that it looks a lot like the PBA does—when it comes to defending its members who brutalize and kill.
And by the way, I learned most of what I know about working class solidarity from my father, who worked in the same subways as Lynch’s father. Too bad his solidarity appears to break at the color line.