An Architect of Police Brutality: How Mayor Rudy Giuliani Cemented a Police State

By Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson

content warnings: police brutality

In 1993, before Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor, he had his own team create The Rudolph W. Giuliani Vulnerability Study, a 464-page detailed report which highlighted all his weaknesses in effort to be prepared to finally defeat his opponent David Dinkins (who he narrowly lost to in the previous election.) One of the most startling parts about this report is there is a literal chapter called “RACIST” where it outlines less about things he said, but more outlining the racist culture he’s a part of and has actively supported. After the report’s use, Giuliani ordered the report to be destroyed but luckily there was someone who hated him enough to leak it.

David Dinkins was the first and only Black mayor that NYC has had. A fact that is incredibly troubling, especially when you start to unfurl Giuliani’s career as Mayor and how he set a new blueprint for corrupt politicians and pioneered a new style and acceptance in police brutality, specifically weaponised against Black and Brown people. There’s a reason why there hasn’t been a Black mayor since Dinkins, and there’s a reason why there also hasn’t been a Black police commissioner since Dinkins either. Lee P. Brown was the last.

It’s crucial for us to understand why there have been so many Black and Brown victims of police brutality, and how Mayor Giuliani’s administration unleashed a new relentless trend which mathematically brings us to the ‘Defund the Police’ protests and demands that are happening today.

One of the most revealing parts about The Study was details relating to September 16 1992, a protest organized by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a New York Police Department union (renamned Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York to be gender-neutral…only in 2019). The protest was attended by 10,000 basically all-white off-duty officers who were campaigning against they’re Black mayor, in simplified terms, because he was Black. But more specifically they were furious at Dinkins’ proposition of having an all-civilian review board that could hold police accountable and fought against Dinkins’ opposition towards introducing semi-automatic guns to the NYPD. A weapon that Lee P. Brown, (remember our last Black police commissioner), in 1992 had written a detailed report stating how dangerous this weapon is, a weapon that went onto excessively shoot numerous Black and Brown victims: “On the densely populated streets of New York City, each errant bullet poses a substantial risk to innocent bystanders and police officers.” However, semi-automatics were introduced under Dinkins’ administration due to NYPD pressure.

To make things more disturbing, prior to the protest that summer, Jose “Kiko” Garcia was shot dead by white undercover cop Michael O’Keefe on the steps of his apartment because he was believed to be armed, though witness testimonies refute this claim thus creating a community uproar against the NYPD that led to a Washington Heights uprising. Dinkins’ responded sympathetically to this community uproar, inviting the victims family to Gracie Mansion (official residence of the NYC Mayor) and attempted to hold cops accountable, by attempting to introduce an all-civilian board which, of course, the NYPD did not like.

NYPD’s protest against Dinkins’ was a direct attack on Black and Brown communities. The protest itself made space for racist insults (such as “The Mayor’s on Crack”), detailed in The Study and reported by The New York Times who rightfully asked “Who should police the police?”. Cops used Dinkins to send a message to Black and Brown people: we will not be held accountable for anything we do and we need more dangerous weapons to do what we do. A recently acquitted Michael O’ Keefe even gave a speech at the protest, who the “greatest applause was reserved for”. I regrettably googled O’Keefe to regrettably find he’s a successful, published author, further discovering a disturbed “obituary” of Dinkins’ recent death, which callously reads: “I win.”

Giuliani was a central figure to this protest using the opportunity to not only build a foundational relationship with the NYPD but to reiterate his tough-on-crime stance, which was the beating heart of his campaign. Crime was high in NYC, but what tends to be overlooked is that crime was already decreasing when Dinkins was in power, his efforts to build bridges and to hold the NYPD account were arguably making some impact. But racism was rampant and rising. 

The term “criminal” was synonymous with Black, yet crime itself was ambiguous, but managed to perfectly compartmentalize bad things that people are scared of without any interrogation of why these bad things happen hence Giuliani’s flippant comments in regards to homelessness, “You are not allowed to live on a street in a civilized city,”, um ok. Giuliani had literally no interest in why, but he was obsessed with people’s fears and exploited that to the detriment of Black and Brown communities and to advance his own career. Against such exploitation of people’s fears and capitalizing off of the racist assumptions of who creates these fears, Dinkins didn’t really stand a chance. Giuliani won the 1993 election introducing his ‘Quality of Life Campaign’ which is racist for we’re going to get Black and Brown people off the streets either in cuffs or casket. A campaign that heavily targeted low level crime, for instance this is when jumping a subway turnstile became an arrestable offence. Not to mention, NYPD had quotas to fill and those who made more arrests were awarded for it, so the pettier the crime the better: “The precinct-by-precinct tracking of so-called nuisance crimes, setting informal quotas for police supervisors and rewarding those who make more arrests, is certain to lead to increased abuses and violence against the city’s working population and the poor.”, said Fred Mazelis for WSWS.

My father would say to me when you make a decision the most important thing you got to think about is can you shave the next morning and look yourself in the mirror and feel good about yourself – Rudolph Giuliani, C-SPAN, 1988

Speaking of the foundations of his relationship with the NYPD, Giuliani’s relationship with the police force was a priority. They could do nothing wrong, thus setting a fatal precedent which has become so hard to combat, their lack of accountability is one of the most difficult parts to undo. Dinkins offered the last glimmer of hope in regards to police accountability, and Giuliani made sure to completely crush it.  Any hopes of “reform” were completely negated and the abandonment of any change was cemented by the employment of only white police commissioners. There was no attempt to build bridges. They went full white semiautomatic and never looked back.

I found some staggering statistics in regards to arrests made by cops in the 90s that reveal the rapid intensity to which NYC became a police state, taken from The Brooklyn Rail

“…under the Mayor’s direction, the N.Y.P.D. was forced into a veritable low-grade war with the public. According to the N.Y.P.D., in 1993 there were 100,000 summonses meted out, while in 2000 there were 600,000.”

And, 

“…in 1992, 720 people were arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges. In 1999, 33,471 people were arrested—a 4,549% increase.” 

I’m seeing body after body and our mayor Giuliani/Ain’t trying to see no Black man turn in to John Gotti. ‘Everyday Struggle’, Notorious B.I.G., 1994 

I’ve read case after case of brutality and deaths by the NYPD in the 90s. One particular case that strongly reveals the levels of corruption in both NYPD and NYC government, was the deaths of Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega in the Bronx in 1995. My grandma lives in the Bronx and when I asked her what she thought of Giuliani she said, “…he hated us. He is a devil”. A sentiment that is echoed in the documentary Justifiable Homicide (2002) which tells the story of Rosario and Vega’s deaths from mother Margarita Rosario’s perspective. I wasn’t familiar with this case prior to researching this piece, and was immediately struck by the fact that one of the police officers guilty of killing them, Patrick Brosnan, voluntarily worked as a bodyguard to Giuliani during his 1993 campaign. He volunteered his time, which I’d presume is so he could lawlessly kill Brown civilians without any repercussions, treating the Bronx like he’s some kind of cowboy in the wild west. 

This case is horrifying. Let me offer a condensed version of events, as it’s imperative you watch the film. Vega had a money issue with Jorge Rodriguez. Vega had told Rodriguez that he’d be returning to collect money the following day. Vega asked Rosario and another friend Freddie Bonilla to come help him. Rodriguez told the police. The police arrived undercover at Rodriguez’s place the following night and hid in the kitchen using it as a stake out. Vega, Rosario and Bonilla arrived. According to the police, the suspects pulled out weapons, and so the officers killed them in self-defense. 

Margarita Rosario, standing in front Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega’s mural in the Bronx. photo: David ‘Dee’ Delgado.

Bonilla survived and recounted a very different testimony, saying each of them dropped their weapons and were face down on the ground when police shot Rosario 14 times and Vega 8 times with semi-automatics from the back. The NYPD-issued New York City Medical Examiner autopsy claims that they were shot from the front, but an independently-issued autopsy reviewed by Dr. Cyril Wecht vehemently disputes this saying: “I really find it impossible to understand how anybody could have come to the conclusion that the shots in the Rosario case were fired from front to back. I can think of no way in which anyone would have arrived at the conclusion or could have been led to that conclusion other than through gross deliberate misrepresentation.”

The details of this case are what are so disturbing. It’s not about whether these victims were guilty or not, they did not shoot their guns and they were evidently on the ground, likely surrendering. There’s no doubt in my mind that this was a police cover-up and Giuliani assisted in doing so. In the documentary’s most damning scene, we see Margarita call-in to Giuliani’s 77 WABC radio show (which is still running by the way) where she attempts to explain the new autopsy evidence when he aggressively speaks over her and then abruptly cuts her off. He continues to speak, coldly and viciously delivering: “Your son also had a criminal record and maybe you should ask yourself some questions about the way he was brought up and the things that happened to him. How did that condition emerge like that and nothing was done about that in your family?” Antonio Rosario did not have a criminal record.

I wonder if Giuliani can still shave, look himself in the mirror and feel good, though I’m unsure whether I want to know the answer to this. I did another masochistic google, this time of officer and Giuliani-bodyguard Patrick Brosnan, he runs his own successful security company, so I’d suspect these white men have no problem getting up everyday.

In the name of Amadou Diallo, Fuck Guiliani and Howard Safir ‘Martyr’, Shyne, 2002

One of the most infamous victims of the NYPD was Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo, who was shot dead on February 4, 1999. Diallo was reaching for his wallet as four NYPD officers, using semi-automatic weapons, unleashed 41 rounds on him; he was unarmed. Whilst it’s important to mention he was unarmed in terms understanding the cops weren’t defending themselves from anything other than their own racism, it also doesn’t actually matter. There is zero justification for four semi-automatic weapons being used on one person, especially a person without the institutional power and backing of the NYPD. What isn’t shocking about this, however, is the fact that Giuliani had little to say on the matter. Diallo’s killing was shortly followed by the NYPD killing of Patrick Dorismond, who was shot to death by an undercover cop. In 2000, Fred Mazelis accurately pointed out:

“Both of these murders were clearly less a matter of ‘rogue’ cops than they were the direct product of the Giuliani administration’s police-state tactics in working class and minority communities, including “stop-and-frisk” harassment based on nothing but the skin color of the individual. “

Crime went down drastically throughout his two terms as Mayor, but Black and Brown people were collateral damage in the process. It should be suspicious to anyone that crime can reduce so rapidly in such a short space of time, someone has to pay for that severe reduction and it’s Black people who are paying that price; being disproportionately imprisoned, brutalized and murdered by police. Every part of Giuliani’s “Quality of Life” campaign was an attack on Black and Brown communities, including seemingly less violent policies such as the attack on nightlife by weaponizing many violations.

Me and my operation, runnin New York night scene / With one eye closed like Peter Gatien“Foundation”, Jay Z, 1996

One of these violations was the Cabaret Law, a law that predated Giuliani but was brought back into fashion and heavily weaponized by him. The law, enacted in 1926, was originally designed to prevent black and white people from intermingling during the Harlem Renaissance. I was part of the effort in 2017 to overturn this law which we successfully did. This law was pretty dormant prior to Giuliani, so this was one of many ways that Giuliani attacked clubs. While it didn’t just affect Black and Brown businesses and people, I discovered through the case of club mogul Peter Gatien, the ways in which clubs were used to harass, profile and demean Black people.

The documentary Limelight (2011) tells the story of Gatien’s rise and fall in nightlife. Gatien at one point owned four different clubs Limelight, Club USA, Palladium and Tunnel which at their height, through the 90s, were incredibly successful, an era that’s often referenced as the peak of NYC’s club culture. The documentary investigates the ways in which Giuliani, the District Attorney and the NYPD used Gatien as a scapegoat for issues relating to drug trafficking, by trying everything in their power to shut down his clubs and shut down club culture and targeting Black patrons became the final way.

What is so interesting about Gatien, is after he was tried for drug trafficking (wins) and tax evasion (makes a deal to pay back with the state), he’s able to reopen in order to pay his back taxes. His club Tunnel had a very successful hip hop party on sundays, that was a prime target for NYPD surveillance firstly because of Gatien’s legal issue but secondly and more pressingly because it was a majority Black crowd, “Sometimes there would be cops, and they would have pages of mug shots. They would hold the pictures close to your face to see if you matched one. They would grab people right there. It was crazy.”, the DJ Cipha Sounds remembers when entering Tunnel. “It felt like you were trying to have a night out in a police state”, journalist Frank Owen says in Limelight. Because it was and currently is.

The attack against club culture and specifically Black clubgoers was not at all hidden, just another item on the endless list to attack Black people under the guise of “crime”, as crime has gone down the NYPD needed more shit to do and clubs were an easy target. “The cops told my police liaison flat out: ‘If Peter stops doing these nights, we’ll stop bothering him.’ A club’s responsibility is to create culture. These people were not coming from Mars; they were New Yorkers, and should have been able to go and dance and enjoy themselves and network.”, Gatien told Complex. Tunnel’s hip hop night is what ended Gatien’s 20-year reign of NYC nightlife. This white man had been given chance after chance to rehabilitate, but a successful hip hop party dominated by Black patrons was ultimately where they drew the line. Gatien was then deported to Canada.

Cam’ron of Dipset explaining his new merchandise, 1998

Giuliani was an architect of police brutality, he prioritized his collusion with the NYPD over anything else. In 1992 he marched with the NYPD, endorsing their fight to not be held accountable for their actions and endorsing their insistence on carrying semi-automatic weapons. This foundation is what continued to allow and encourage police brutality and corruption, he proudly supported excessive force and never condemned it. If a few innocent Black and Browns were killed along the way, well, we’ll just blame their parents. 

Giuliani finished his term in 2001, directly after 9/11 for which his response was celebrated. However when he ran for president in 2008, his past started to catch up with him. I recently found an anti-Giuliani video made by the Fire Department of New York to suppress his presidential chances. He was the Republican presidential frontrunner, but the release of this video drastically shifted the current, moving him out of the race. In short, the firefighters blamed Giuliani for the 9/11 deaths of many of their colleagues and relatives due to faulty radios, which were reported to Giuliani many times before 9/11. And what is even more revealing, is that the NYPD radios worked perfectly fine, resulting in drastically less fatalities and again pointing to his NYPD priorities.

On January 6, 2021 as President Donald Trump’s now lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani incited an attack on the Capitol by pursuing the false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulently won by Joe Biden. He used the term “trial by combat”, explicitly directing Trump supporters to use violence to overthrow the government. I’m unsure as to whether he was even prepared for the violence that occured, resulting in 5 deaths one of which was a police officer, and a second police officer died by suicide a several days later. I scanned his twitter to see if he had bothered to offer any condolences to the dead police officers, seeing as his whole career has been built on the backs of “Blue Lives Matter”, but there was nothing more than a retweet of someone else’s condolences. 

The fact that he couldn’t even utter sympathies to his own people reflects his own performativity, none of his collusion with cops was about believing in what they do, but believing in what they could do for him. If you’re familiar with narcissistic behaviour, this isn’t exactly surprising but I don’t think a more perfect portrait can be painted and he painted it with his own brush. Based on the research I did, It’s not at all hard to come to the same conclusion that I have, it’s not like any of this stuff is hidden. There’s endless articles condemning Giuliani but yet he persevered, there are zero check points for white men in power. 

Jump a fucking turnstile. Fuck Giuliani.

Dweller is an independently-funded platform via merchandise and individual contributions, this allows us to pay pay all our contributors including ourselves. If you’d wish to make a contribution you can via paypal info@dwellerforever.blog