The American people’s faith in law enforcement has been deeply and likely irreparably damaged by the events of the past year. When protests sprang up over the killing of unarmed Black Americans at the hands of police, cops in cities across the country, with the urging of the president, responded with overwhelming brutal force, tear-gassing innocent civilians on numerous occasions, beating them, siccing dogs on them, and even ramming into them with vehicles in some cases.
The New York City Police Department’s actions proved especially egregious and numerous clips of disturbingly violent police behavior went viral in the weeks following the killing of George Floyd. After such a string of incidents, one might imagine the NYPD would be eager to rehabilitate its image but a new report from The Gothamist indicates no such eagerness. The NYPD has come out in defense of a clearly racist “challenge coin” from 2017 that refers to East Flatbush as “Fort Jah.”
The coin was created by the Police Benevolent Association and sold in the 67th Precinct headquarters. Four other coins have also been found online bearing the markings of the precinct in question along with the “Fort Jah” phrase. One of them bears the image of two white cops hunting a Black man alongside a Hemingway quote about the “hunting” of men. Another image shows a skull with dreadlocks, clearly an attempt to otherize and dehumanize members of the West Indian communities in East Flatbush.
NYPD spokesperson Detective Denise Moroney claimed to The Gothamist that only the 2017 fundraiser coin is connected to the department and denied any connection to the ones with the overt racist imagery. Morony further claimed that both she and the precinct commander were unaware of what “Fort Jah” referred to but did concede that “Jah” is a religious term for God in the Rastafarian faith. Even so, Morony stated she doesn’t know where the nickname came from.
“There’s always nicknames that fly around, they’ve floated around since the 1980s, 1970s. You have Fort Apache, Fort Surrender, you have a lot of nicknames that have stuck around through the ages,” said Moroney said.
Given what we know about the NYPD’s often adversarial relationship with the truth, such claims of ignorance should be taken with a grain of salt. The likeliest explanation is that officers had the horrifyingly racist coins made as an-joke for their white coworkers and are now denying their involvement to save face. The simple undeniable fact though is that our law enforcement agents have a dire, systemic racism problem. Every time a story like this hits the news it makes it clear that the problem is far worse than many of us ever expected.
the NYPD is not even pretending to try to hide it pic.twitter.com/yObheIb15a
— Shaun King is a grifter, don't give him money (@NatTowsen) August 30, 2020
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