New York City this week reached a $2.5 million settlement with the mother of Army National Guardsman Noel Polanco, a young man who was shot and killed by an NYPD detective in 2012.
Polanco was headed home on Oct. 4, 2012 after a night out with friends when he was pulled over by Det. Hassan Hamdy on the Grand Central Parkway. Police say Polanco was driving erratically and that he reached for a gun, which a passenger in the car disputed. Hamdy fatally shot Polanco, who was unarmed.
A Grand Jury declined to indict Hamdywho has been named in two lawsuits alleging civil rights violations and police brutality, according to court documents.
Polanco’s mother said the seven-figure settlement does not heal her broken heart. “I want the NYPD to fire this officer. He should not be on the street with a weapon.”
She is right. How Hamdy responded to a traffic infraction that left an unarmed man dead is beyond reckless and outrageous. Yet, he is still on the job.
The attorney representing the Polanco family described the settlement as “fair.”
And while monetary compensation is deserved, it is no substitute for justice and accountability.
For decades, the City and the NYPD have preferred to arrive at settlements instead of rigorously prosecute police officers accused of excessive force. In 2012 alone, the City paid about $22 million in settlements of civil rights cases against police officers.
In this preventable death, there were questions about the effectiveness of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office in presenting the case and securing a criminal trial. Police reform activists have long pointed to the co-dependence of district attorneys and police officers as an inherent conflict of interest. This is why, when it comes to cases of police abuse and misconduct, there are often calls for an independent prosecutor.
The life of this young man, who aspired to become a police officer, merits a thorough judicial process. Polanco was failed by the local system, which is all the more reason why the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) must conduct a full investigation and bring its findings to the public soon. The DOJ launched a probe last October.
In the meantime, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton should immediately fire Hamdy.