When Joining the Force Can’t Protect Black Men from Getting Shot by the Cops

By Julianne Hing May 29, 2009

Omar Edwards was just 25, a newlywed. He’d been with the NYPD since July of 2007. And last night, he died after he was fatally shot by another cop. Edwards was off-duty and not in uniform. After his shift ended last night, he saw someone breaking into his car and gave chase. Initial reports say Edwards pulled his gun on the thief as other police officers approached. It was then that his white colleague, Officer Andrew Dunton, shot him three times. There are so many parts of the NY Times piece that hurt to read:

"A police official said officers at the scene learned that Officer Edwards was a colleague only when they ripped open his shirt in an effort to revive him and saw a Police Academy T-shirt. They then searched his pants pockets and found a badge."

You know those cops had a moment then, when they realized the person they’d shot wasn’t just another expendable young Black man. And why you gonna shoot the man three times, and then rush to save his life? Mayor Bloomberg also acknowledged the incident on his radio show.

"The only thing that can come out of this is to improve procedures so perhaps it doesn’t happen again," the mayor said.

People are calling for an overhaul of departmental procedures, more training, more education. But that doesn’t really seem to be the issue here, does it? the news about Edwards’ murder has been sitting all day on the front page of the Times website, above the fold, primarily because Edwards was a police officer. But when he was shot he was out of uniform, and to the other cops involved in the tussle, he was just another Black man. Oops. The story of Edwards’ death mirrors the awful circumstances of NYPD Officer Christopher Ridley’s death in 2008. Ridley, too, was off-duty and out of uniform when he was fatally shot by fellow cops after trying to break up a street fight. Oops? Would their uniforms have saved their lives? Because clearly these Black men weren’t safe in their own skin.