defiant.jpgLong before people cried out against 50 shots in protest of Sean Bell's death at the hands of the police, they decried 41 shots. We were surprised to hear that Kenneth Boss is still an officer with the NYPD. Seven years ago he fired five of the 41 shots that killed unarmed Amadou Diallo in the Bronx. He was acquitted of murder charges by an Albany jury, along with three other officers who subsequently left the job. Other cops now call Boss "Kenny No-Gun" because the department will no longer let him carry one. Disarmed, he fills his days fixing tools and playacting as a participant in police drills. Boss returned from a seven-month deployment to Iraq with the Marines last year, where he earned a Navy Achievement Medal. Earlier this year, he filed a federal lawsuit against the NYPD asking that it fully reinstate him and give him his gun back. He tried this back in 2002, when he filed essentially the same suit in a State Supreme Court, which eventually decided that the Police Commissioner had the right to determine which officers on the force could be disarmed.

Regardless of the merits of Boss's case, observers see his endeavor as a political time bomb for the NYPD and the city, especially after several others have been indicted in the Sean Bell shooting and community feelings are raw. The New York Times has a a detailed examination of the efforts.

Delores Jones-Brown, a former prosecutor in New York City and interim director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said feelings in minority communities were still too raw from the Bell shooting.

“The police have a community relations problem, and the notion that he would end up back on the force, I’m sure they see it as a political football,” she said. “And yeah, it means he gets caught in the middle of that.

“By no fault of his own, I don’t think it would be good for anyone, even him, if he were to get his gun back,” Ms. Jones-Brown said.

Following the 1999 shooting, all four officers were subject to an investigation by the NYPD's Firearms Discharge Review Board, which determined that their behavior the night they killed Amadou Diallo did not violate official guidelines and that they should not be disciplined. Both Bernard Kerik and Ray Kelly decided to disregard that recommendation.

The only thing Boss seems certain of now is that he is alone in his quixotic quest to regain his name and his job. If other cops aren't outright scornful of his reduced status in the department, they know it would be "career suicide" to attempt to help him. Kenneth Boss has killed people since that night in the Bronx. He shot two insurgents while in Iraq, once after being shot in his bulletproof vest. His platoon leader says he was the best solider under his command.

(Defiant, by kefuffle & zeitgeist at flickr)