The New York Police Department (NYPD) is insisting there’s nothing wrong with the ‘Fort Jah’ nickname used by officers of its 67th Precinct in East Flatbush, even as images of a 2017 collector’s item went viral online.
Out of the several ‘Fort Jah challenge coins’ that have been put up for sale on an auction website, one that depicts what appears to be a black man with dreadlocks being hunted by white police officers has triggered fierce backlash.
According to a Gothamist article published on Sunday (August 30), NYPD spokesperson Detective Denise Moroney confirmed the coin was created on behalf of members of its Police Benevolent Association (PBA).
Moroney told the Gothamist that the coin was the culmination of a fundraiser for injured Officer Dalsh Veve and was sold in the precinct headquarters in the “summer or fall of 2017”.
What has placed the NYPD under heavy scrutiny is the repeated use of ‘Fort Jah’ on the coins, in a precinct that serves a large West Indian population in Brooklyn, as well as the clear racist undertones depicted.
“Two of those other coins also feature racist imagery, like a depiction of a black man with dreadlocks being hunted by white police officers, along with a quote from Ernest Hemingway celebrating the ‘hunting of man’. One example features an image of an eagle holding a skull with dreadlocks,” the article continued.
The 2017 coin, in particular, was also inscribed with the words ‘Let The Games Begin’ and included the colours of the Jamaican flag on its reverse side.
Checks by BUZZ on the auction website in question have shown at least four different coins each bearing the ‘Fort Jah’ inscription, however, the NYPD said that only one of the challenge coins listed could be confirmed as part of a precinct fundraiser.
Moroney denied that the other coins have any link to the department.
In a statement on Monday, the NYC Legal Aid Society condemned the blatant racism on display at the NYPD’s 67th precinct following the Gothamist’s article.
Attorneys from Legal Aid further decried the tolerance seemingly shown by the NYPD for these racist expressions—pointing to confirmation of the dehumanising views of black and Latinx New Yorkers held by many police officers.
“Not only are they making fun of the religion and the beliefs and the culture of the people whom they have committed to protect and serve,” said Anthony Posada, a supervising attorney for the Community Justice Unit at the Legal Aid Society, “they’re saying you are the hunted. You are the savages.”
Some persons on social media have not found it coincidental that ‘Fort Jah’—a mockery of Rastafarianism and the larger West Indian communities the 67th Precinct serves—has one of the highest rates of civilian complaints within New York.
Just two years ago, the 6th Precinct was the target of a lawsuit by former NYC Council member Kendall Stewart In 2018, Stewart alleged widespread discrimination against the West Indian community in East Flatbush.
According to the Gothamist, that the precinct is also home to Sergeant David “Bullethead” Grieco, one of the most-frequently sued officers in the NYPD.