One bad cop can ruin the reputation of the entire force. In turn this makes it difficult for good cops to do their job. And yet, when bad cops step out of line some departments protect them at all costs, even when they have taken an innocent life. This is also true for the NYPD who has a long history of serving and protecting each other before the community. The justice system treats officers differently and sometimes the sentences dealt for officer’s misdeeds are felt as a lack of justice by the public. A recent example is NYPD officer Peter Liang who was convicted of killing an innocent man in 2014. New York’s district attorney Kenneth Thompson is recommending no jail time at all, according to Reason on March 24.
The date of the incident was November 20, 2014 and Liang along with his partner were patrolling the dark stairwell of a housing project. Liang and his partner were not suppose to be there as their commanding officer had told them to only patrol the streets and at most the lobby of the building. Akai Gurley and his girlfriend entered the stairwell one floor below because they did not want to wait for the elevator. The sudden sound startled Liang who turned and fired his already drawn weapon into the darkness. The bullet ricocheted off the wall and got lodged in Gurley’s chest. Gurley lay on the floor bleeding, dying.
Liang panics, but instead of calling for an ambulance he texts his union representative and waited a full five minutes before reporting the shooting. When 911 dispatchers reached out to Liang and his partner about reports of gunfire inside the building, Liang was unresponsive. And instead of trying to help revive the man he just shot Liang was too busy trying to get the address of the building they were in to lend a hand. He thought it best to wait for professionals to help revive Gurley. Liang said he was in a state of shock and panic but texting his union rep demonstrates he was more concerned about saving his job than the man who lay dying in front of him. Gurley died at the hospital from the gunshot wound later on.
After the shooting Liang has been serving on modified duty waiting for a thorough investigation to occur. Once convicted he was fired from the force.The DA feels justice in this case does not warrant prison time. Mr. Thompson is instead recommending 5 years probation, 500 hours of community service, and 6 months of house arrest.
“Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety,” Mr. Thompson said. “Because his incarceration is not necessary to protect the public, and due to the unique circumstances of this case, a prison sentence is not warranted.”
This statement outraged Gurley’s family who found out about the recommendation through the media. They do not believe this would be an adequate sentence for manslaughter. The family feels this will only further serve to fuel the negative sentiments towards police officers who are not being held accountable for their actions. The DA’s recommendation was a surprise to many, but in the end it will be up to the judge to decide Liang’s fate.