I just keep thinking of Aunt Sally in Huck Finn:

NEW YORK (CNN) — A judge acquitted three New York Police Department detectives of all charges Friday morning in the shooting death of an unarmed man in a 50-bullet barrage, hours before he was to be married.

Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora were found not guilty of charges of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment in the death of Sean Bell, 23, and the wounding of two of his friends.

Detective Marc Cooper was acquitted of reckless endangerment.

Keep in mind that this case was decided by a single judge, rather than a jury. The cops weren’t comfortable with the idea of a jury of their peers.

This verdict occurs at a time when the NYPD has lapsed into a pattern of unaccountability, where instead of pursing violations, cops are given a tongue lashing:

In 2004, 88 cases against police officers actually made it to trial. Last year, that number was eight. And yet, the police department claims that it’s actually doing a better job of prosecuting bad cops. How? By employing a complex manipulation of statistics.

Complaints are prosecuted not by the CCRB itself but by the NYPD’s Department Advocate’s Office, which, since Julie Schwartz took over in 2004, has increasingly used a light hand with police officers who are found to deserve discipline. After Schwartz took over, the percentage of officers receiving “instructions” (what amounts to a talking-to, the lightest possible penalty) jumped from 29 percent of those disciplined in 2004 to 57 percent in 2005. In her second year, the number increased to 73 percent.

That’s a lot of stern lectures.

The NYCLU referred to it as “a free pass to engage in misconduct”.

Calling it a “seismic shift” in policy, Christopher Dunn, the NYCLU’s associate legal director, asserts: “Between the dramatic increase in the number of CCRB [Civilian Complaint Review Board] cases the department is dismissing, and the large number of cases where officers get only a slap on the wrist in the form of instructions, the department has essentially given officers a free pass to engage in misconduct.”

That’s my concern with the Sean Bell verdict. With violations being punished less often and less harshly within the department, and these cops facing no consequences for pumping 50 shots at three unarmed black men, things will only get worse.

This was not a murder trial. The men were given lesser charges that I believe were more suited to their crime. These did not sound like bloodthirsty men who just wanted to pop somebody, they sounded like cops who got scared and behaved recklessly. A man is dead because of that, and I don’t see any justice in allowing them to go free without consequences.

And I will say this: 50 shots at an unarmed target. That kind of thing never, ever seems to happen to anyone else.

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