Commentary by Harold K. Bell (Posted February 27, 2016)
Photo: DC Mayor Muriel Bowser introduces Peter Newsham as the new Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department
“It is time like this you ask, “Where is the NAACP, the Urban League, the Congressional Black Caucus and our trail blazing civil rights warrior, John Lewis? Why are unarmed people of color being shot down in our streets by cops who are suppose to be protecting them?” — Harold K. Bell
Michael Wood a former Baltimore cop exposed racism against people of color in the city police department long before the Department of Justice and Freddy Gray. The Justice Department after the fact said, “Racial Bias Pervasive Among Baltimore Police.”
Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s appointment of Peter Newsham as the new chief of police in the nation’s capitol is a slap in the face to “Good Cops” across America and sends the message, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Newsham is well known in police circles as a drunk and domestic abuser (wife and girlfriends are on record in court proceedings). His wife accused him of domestic violence and his many girlfriends all backed her story.
Several years ago he was found lying in a DC street drunk, the department confiscated his gun. Where there is smoke you can bet there is a fire.
This account of his personal problems with alcohol and domestic abuse was aired on TV 5 Fox News in December of 2016. In the meantime, law enforcement has the highest percentage of domestic abuse in America. Peter Newsham is their poster boy in the nation’s capitol. We cannot blame this appointment on our new President Donald Trump (see Fox TV 5 News link on Newsham at http://www.fox5dc.com/news/local-news/221018540-story).
It is times like this you ask, “Where is the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus or our trail blazing civil rights warrior, John Lewis, the Urban League, and unarmed people of color who are being shot dead in our streets by policemen who are suppose to be protecting them?
Peter Newsham has applied for police chief positions in Brandenton, Florida and in Phoenix, Arizona and both places hired someone other than Newsham. It seems like that would have been a “Red Flag” for DC politicians. Evidently, they are gluttons for continued punishment at the hands of DC cops.
DC much like Prince George’s County and Baltimore is surely becoming “The Wild, Wild West” and a Police State on the East Coast! Check out the police departments from Baltimore, Prince George’s County, DC to Virginia—all are corrupt and headed by “Good Old Boys”!
Mayor Bowser and DC Councilwoman Mary Che were not only aware of the report that aired on TV 5 Fox News, but I personally gave them background information of corruption taking place at the DC Police Department warehouse on the watch of Newsham and his cronies before the report aired on our local FOX 5 TV station.
The written information was given to them at a benefit fund raiser for DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in 2016. I watched both politicians put the information in their purse. The only reason I didn’t pass the information on to Congresswoman Norton was because she didn’t have a purse and I didn’t want her to leave it on a table in the restaurant.
There is little doubt that the report on FOX 5 was brought to her attention, and it looks like these three minority women of color decided they would see no evil, speak no evil or hear no evil when it came to Peter Newsham’s appointment as the top cop in the nation’s capitol.
In the report I identified a police officer who had earned Inspector stripes and was assigned to the department’s warehouse. He uncovered widespread corruption by Newsham and his cronies. There were police records and other items of evidence being removed from the warehouse without authorized signatures. He put the involved officers on notice “Not on my watch”! He was immediately demoted back to Captain by Chief Cathy Lanier and reassigned. (I also question Lanier’s qualifications on her new job to investigate domestic violence among NFL players when she did a piss poor job in her role as MPD police chief) But I digress.
My brothers, Robert Bell (U. S. Marshall 20 years) and Sgt. Earl K. Bell (DC Cop 14 years) were 4th generation Washingtonians and were raised in Mt. Airy Baptist Church in NW Washington, DC. Our Great-Grand Father Alfred Johnson Tyler laid the first brick to build the church in 1893.
The Tyler House was built for low income senior residents is located two blocks north of the church and is named after my Great-Uncle, the Rev. Earl Tyler.
“Serpico” the movie was based on the non-fictional book by Peter Maas. The film follows about twelve years (1959-1971) in the life of Frank Serpico, a NYPD officer who wanted to do the best that he could as a policeman. Working as a uniform patrolman, Serpico completed every assignment.
Later he moves to plain clothes assignments, where he slowly uncovers cops doing drugs, taking paybacks and other criminal actions that fall under corruption. Serpico decides to tell others the truth about this, but other officers made it hard for him to tell the truth and threaten him with termination and other kinds of punishment.
This struggle led to fights in his unit, problems in his personal relationships, a near death experience, and the final meeting with the Knapp Commission, which met to investigate police corruption between 1970 and 1972. (The commission disbanded before the release of the film).
Frank Serpico’s struggle with corruption in the New York City Police Department mirrors that of a DC cop–my brother, Sgt. Earl K. Bell.
The movie made its debut in 1973 and Earl K. Bell joined the DC Metropolitan Police Department in 1974.
If I did not know my brother I would swear he copied his style of policing from the movie, but I know better because he was raised by our heroes to be an independent thinker. Our heroes were black women, our mother Mattie Bell and our grandmother and the family matriarch, Amy Tyler Bell. She was affectionately known as “Grandma Bell.”
We were raised in a NE housing project called Parkside in the 40s and 50s by a single mom. My older brother Robert was raised by Grandma Bell. Our heroes were not black athletes, they were black women who could not shoot a jump shot from behind the foul line, throw a football 75 yards in the air or hit a baseball out of a stadium, but they were Superstars in the most important game being played in Black America—The Game Called Life.
For far too long there has been a myth that a black woman needed a black man to properly raise black children—Mattie Bell and Grand Ma Bell proved that was a lie many decades ago.
The lessons of integrity and honesty taught by our mother Mattie and Grandma Bell would later surface during our adulthood, Earl as a U. S. Military Policeman and DC cop, Robert as a tire salesman, grocery store owner and a U. S. Marshall and me as a pioneering radio sports talk show host and youth advocate.
As a Army Military Policeman in Germany Earl led a group of black enlisted men in a boycott to downtown nightclubs that discriminated against blacks.
The July 1969 issue of JET magazine chronicled Earl’s trials and tribulations in the military as he fought for his and other enlisted men’s civil and human rights. The story also insinuated that I was visiting the White House with Richard M. Nixon and playing footsie with the President while my little brother was fighting racism in the U. S. Army.
The truth was his big brother was visiting the White House because during my youth I caddied at the Burning Tree Golf Club in Bethesda, Maryland on the weekends. It was there the Vice-President who became my mentor. This led me to receiving a Presidential appointment. This appointment came from a man who never asked me if I was Republican or Democrat.
During our youth my brother Earl and I carried bags of groceries at the Safeway store for mostly white folks and I caddied on the weekends to help our mother make ends meet.
Our introduction to cops will never be forgotten. We watched cops conduct weekend raids on our house in the wee hours of the morning. My welfare mother hosted card games and cut a dime on every dollar won. She also sold dinners and bootleg liquor to help make ends meet.
My brother Earl and I would sit on the steps and watch as the cops carried our mother out in handcuffs. The charge was selling liquor and gambling without a license. We would sit there crying our eyes out, but she would look back and promise us “I will be back in time to get you ready for church in the morning” a promise she always kept.
There were other encounters with the police. There was no such thing as a “Officer Friendly.” I remember the time when no food was in the house, Earl and I decided to travel to the other side of the tracks to the Safeway to earn enough money to buy some food. This was a weekday and there would be a few shoppers in the store. As we pretended to roam the isles looking for customers we decided to shoplift for our food. We left the store with lunch meats, hotdogs and cheese stuffed in our shorts and jackets. I left the store by the front door and Earl left by the back door.
We were about to cross to the other side of the tracks to our housing project, suddenly a police car jumped the curve and cut us off. Two white cops got out and threw us in the back seat and sped off. They were calling us all kinds of Niggers and the like. We thought someone had snitched on us and we were in big trouble caught red-handed with the stolen goods.
In the meantime, they forgot to search us. We took our new found meal and hide it under the seat of the car. We arrived at the 14th Police Precinct on Benning Road NE. We were pushed into a room where there was a little old white lady who claimed she had been robbed by two Niggers. Without hesitation she jumped straight up out of her seat and said “Those are not the Niggers who snatched my pocketbook.” The word Nigger never sounded so good!
The cops then took us to the back door and told us to stay out of trouble and to walk our black asses’ home. We walked about 50 yards and looked at each other and headed back to the police car and got our food from under the car seat. We laughed all the way home.
In 1958 Earl, me and my younger brother William became homeless after our mother suffered a nervous breakdown. She had to be hospitalized. Earl was sent to Cedar Knoll (a reform school for juveniles) and William was taken in by our neighbor Ms. Winnifred Powell and her two sons, Sonny and Gaylord. I was left to wander the streets sleeping in park cars until my mother’s cousin Doretha discovered me sleeping in her car early one morning. This led to an invitation to live with her. I never missed a day of school because of my mentor/father coach Dave Brown and a school of dedicated Spingarn teachers led by our Principal Dr. Purvis Williams understood that it truly took a village to raise a “knuckle headed” child.
One year later my older brother was on his way to college and Earl was released from custody of the juvenile court system. In 1959, coach Dave Brown convinced Winston-Salem State College coach Clarence Bighouse Gaines to give me a football and basketball scholarship. It saved my life.
In 1960, Earl hitch-hiked all the way to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to watch his big brother play his second year of college football. I was a rising star under the critical eyes of “Bighouse” but still a knuckle head.
It was homecoming when Earl arrived on campus out of nowhere only to witness his big brother was never to get off the bench. Winston-Salem State beat Elizabeth City like they had stolen something. He later discovered his brother’s smart mouth had him in “Bighouse’s Dog House.” Earl caught a ride back to DC with friends. He graduated from Spingarn High School in 1961 and the next thing anyone knew; he had made the smartest move of his life—he joined the U. S. Army.
Earl ended his Army career after 8 years plus and returned home to DC, but not before leaving his mark as a heavyweight boxing champion, table tennis champion, outstanding softball umpire and the anointed leader of a boycott of a downtown night club that discriminated against black enlisted men.
It became apparent the Army had no use for an outspoken black man who refused to walk with his back bent and head down. A lesson learned from his grandmother and mother.
In 1973, he told me he was interested in a career as a DC policeman. I had been working in the streets with youth gangs and at-risk children since 1965 (United Planning Organization and DC Recreation Department) and I had mixed emotions about his career choice, but I reluctantly gave him my blessings.
The turn-around of his life was impressive. As a youth Earl was definitely a juvenile delinquent going to hell in a hurry. His crew included a petty thief by the name of Dave Bing who is now in the NBA Hall of Fame and was the Mayor of Detroit.
Earl’s pursue of a career in law enforcement puzzled many of his former “Boys in the Hood.” He suddenly became ‘The Man’ on their turf with the power to lock them up and there were times he did, but he never crossed the line. He was known as a stand up and honest police officer.
Photo: Burtell Jefferson, the first black DC Police Chief welcomes native Washingtonian officer Earl K. Bell to the department
Maurice Turner was a black Assistant Chief in the department when Earl first arrived to take the test. He passed the physical and written exam with flying colors but he received a form letter saying he had been rejected. When Washington Post columnist Bill Raspberry called to make an inquiry, Police Chief Jim Murray said, “Some clerk in his office sent Earl a form letter telling him that he had been rejected. A check mark appeared next to a paragraph that said: “Our character investigation reveals sufficient adverse material to disqualify you.”
The “adverse material” according to Earl, consists of two petty larceny charges and a disorderly conduct when he was 14 and charges of yoke robbery and assault on a police officer when he was 16.
“They say it is because one of the crimes involved, a crime of violence was the reason they disqualified me,” he said. ‘But a juvenile court judge ruled that I was ‘not involved in the robbery or the police assault. I was found ‘involved’ in the one of the petty larcenies and the disorderly conduct.’
What it boils down to then, is that he was in danger or being denied appointment on the basic of a juvenile offense of which he was in essence, found innocent. Fortunately, the case was brought to Murray’s personal attention and the “mix-up” has been straightened out only after Bill Raspberry had intervened. Earl would become a rookie officer next week, Chief Murray said yesterday.
Still unresolved, however, is the question of turning down applicants—-because they have juvenile records. That’s one Murray might want to look into. (If you believe Lt. Maurice Turner (later Chief) and Jim Murray’s version of this charade I have some property I would like to sell you located around the White House)!
Turner moved up in the ranks to become Sergeant and one weekend while in charge of the cell block, he discovered two cops one black and one white physically abusing black prisoners just for the hell of it. He demanded they back off and reminded them this was not to happen again on his watch. They refused to heed his warning and repeated the abuse.
Earl took the abusive officers to his black superiors and homeboys, Maurice Turner, Marty Tapscott and Isaac Fullwood. They tucked their tails between their legs and ran away from the incident as they far as they could get. I advised him to take his case to the U. S. Attorney’s Office and the offending cops were convicted. The black cop Musgrove served time but white cop never got a day in jail.
I never forget where I was and what I was doing on the morning when I got the news of my brother Earl’s automobile accident. My alarm had just gone off in my apartment in Prince George’s County, Maryland and the telephone rang. It was my nephew Kenny with the bad news that my brother had been in a bad car accident on the way to work.
The accident took place 10 minutes from my residence in Suitland, Maryland minutes from the Suitland Parkway. My route to Southeast Community Hospital took me directly to Southern Avenue where the accident occurred. Earl’s car looked like a crushed can of soup I don’t know how they managed to cut him out of that car. When I arrived at the hospital I was told by the doctors it didn’t look good.
The Thin Blue Line and Code of Silence caught up with Sgt. Earl K. Bell and when Assistant Chief Isaac Fullwood took him off the streets and assigned him to the Police and Fire Clinic as a way of discipline. The first morning on his new assignment he had a head on collision with a 16 wheeler after encountering a patch of ice on Southern Avenue crossing over the Suitland Parkway. The 16 wheeler and the Code of Silence won, he would spin the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He died August 1, 2014, in a nursing home.
My brother Robert a U. S. Marshall faced the same “Code of Silence and Thin Blue Line” as his brother Earl, but my friend and mentor former U. S. Marshall-in Charge, Luke C. Moore had his back.
Photo: Former U. S. Marshall-in Charge and DC Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore and Chief Judge Eugene Hamilton
I am my brother’s keeper. The decision by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, DC Councilwoman Mary Che and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to “Rubber Stamp” the appointment of Peter Newsham will set people of color back decades. Its a slap in the face to my brothers and men and women of color in America. Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X all must be turning over in their graves.
Wrongful deaths at the hands of Cops and the KKK in the past several years include, Travon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddy Gray, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Akai Gurley, Kajieme Powell, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Michael Brown, John Crawford, Tyree Woodson, Victor White, Yvette Smith, McKenzie Cochran, Jordan Baker, Andy Lopez, Miriam Carey (DC), Jonathan Ferrell, Carlos Alcis, Larry Eugene Jackson, Deion Fludd, Kimani Gray, Johnnie Warren, Malissa Williams, Timothy Russell, Reynaldo Cuevas, Chavis Carter, Shantel Davis, Sharmel Edwards, Tamon Robinson, Ervin Jefferson, Kendrec McDade, Rekia Boyd, Shareese Francis, Wendell Allen, Nehemiah Dillard, Dante Price, Raymond Allen, Mauel Loggins, Ramarley Graham, Kenneth Chamberlain, Alonzo Ashley, Kenneth Harding, Raheim Brown, and Reginald Doucet to name just a few. The bullet has replaced the rope as a lynching tool in Black America and the cops are using people of color as their targets.
Lett us not forget 31-year old Terrence Sterling was shot and killed while riding his motorcycle unarmed in 2016 on Peter Newsham’s watch. The officer did not have his body camera on until after the shooting. Bowser is also in favor of denying full access to the media and public of the body camera when use in police misconduct.
What makes the Bowser appointment all the more alarming is that white police chiefs have stepped to the forefront and apologized for their colleagues and ancestors’ brutality relating to people of color.
Terrence Cunningham former Chief of Police in Welsley Boston is now the President of the International Chiefs of Police, the largest police organization in America. He recently apologized for his colleagues decades of mistreatment of people of color (see link below).
Austin Callaway was abducted by a mob of white men 40 years ago from his jail cell in LaGrange, Georgia. He was driven to the woods and shot to death. The city’s current police chief Louis Dekmar publicly apologized for this act of racism that took place 77 years ago. This type of apology is rare in the South.
Peter Newsham’s law enforcement history speaks volumes and he has never apologized for any of his wrong doings. He has had a long history of both personal and professional scandals. The 1990s and 2000s were plagued with allegations of alcoholism and domestic violence, a history of love affairs, as well as the mass unconstitutional arrest of 400 people at DC’s Pershing Park and a scathing third-party report uncovering the department’s mishandling of sexual assault cases while Newsham was at the helm of the MPD’s Investigative Services Bureau, he cost the city millions of dollars. Then Assistant Chief Peter Newsham admitted in court he ordered the arrest of almost 400 protestors, journalists, and bystanders during the 2002 World Bank-International Monetary Fund protests at Pershing Park. The Federal District Court and the Appellate Court found the arrests to be “ludicrous.”
The arrests reportedly cost the city more than $10 million to settle a lawsuit filed by those wrongfully arrested. The attorney who filed the class-action lawsuit, Carl Messineo, works for the Civil Justice Partnership. He said officers “hogged tied them to their wrist to opposite ankle and left them in that painful position for 10, 15 hours and left them on the gymnasium floor. Why? Because people were engaged in dissent and they wanted to shut it down.”
The arrests that followed the 2002 demonstration protesting meetings between the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund also reportedly cost taxpayers nearly $3 million just to defend Newsham and then Police Chief Charles Ramsey. Not only did Newsham order the wrongful mass arrest, but he was virtually allowed to investigate himself because at the time, he was also head of the Office of Professional Responsibility—the ethics branch of the police department.
It was ultimately discovered that the log of events that would have certified and documented the chain of command and orders made that day completely vanished. The evidence somehow disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the arrests. Messineo added, “You have the mass false arrest of 400 persons, followed by a massive coverup. Peter Newsham has never apologized, he’s never indicated that what he did was wrong. I believe the facts show he knew it was wrong. The court opinions found that no reasonable police officer could have ordered these mass arrests.”
Politico Magazine published a column in 2014 titled “The Ferguson Next Door.” The column described the Prince George’s County Police Department. The department has been under the scrutiny of the FBI for decades and is considered one of the most brutal in the country.
In an email in December 2016 to Pastor John Jenkins of First Baptist Church of Glen Arden, one the largest churches in the DMV, I asked him for his support while trying to find a solution and this was his response:
2016 Kids In Trouble, Inc Police and Community Relations Forum
Photo: Jim Brown (NFL) and Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA) co-host 2007 Kids In Trouble, Inc., Police and Community Relations Forum in Washington, D. C.
Photo: Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Bill Raspberry cites the good of Police & Community Relations when cops and Kids In Trouble work together.
Photo: Me meeting with Ricky Dargan, Kirby Burkes and Officer Charles Robinson, champions and teammates on a city wide softball tournament.
If the Peter Newsham appointment is approved, we are definitely headed in the direction of a Police State in the DMV.
My 50 years of experience of working in the streets with the Good, Bad and Ugly of police departments in the DMV, Peter Newsham easily cries “Bad News.”
Harold Bell is the Godfather of Sports Talk radio and television in Washington, DC. Throughout the mid-sixties, seventies and eighties, Harold embarked upon a relatively new medium–sports talk radio with classic interviews with athletes and sports celebrities. The show and format became wildly popular. Harold has been an active force fighting for the rights of children for over 40 years with the help of his wife through their charity Kids In Trouble, Inc. To learn more about Harold Bell visit his official website The Original Inside Sports.com.