by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University – Scholarship in Action
The Pleasantville Police Department in New York upset the African American community by giving an Officer of the Year Award to the policeman who shot a young black college student in a racially-volatile incident. Danroy “DJ” Henry was shot by officer Aaron Hess last year at a night club under questionable circumstances.
“The (Pleasantville Police Benevolent Association’s) Award is an expression of support for the dignified and professional manner in which Officer Hess has conducted himself throughout this ordeal,” wrote President Matthew Listwan in a statement.
Hess shot into Henry’s car on October 17 after the officer inexplicably landed on the young man’s hood. Henry, who was 20 years old on the night he died, is accused by officers of being drunk behind the wheel and speeding away without stopping according to the officers’ instructions. The family claims that Henry was following orders to drive away when Officer Hess jumped in front of the car. Henry’s family attorney, Michael Sussman, says that firing at a moving vehicle and jumping in front of it are violations of state law and department rules.