This powerful documentary explores the involvement of the New York Police Department in the high profile slayings of three men, and the mothers working for their cases to be brought to justice. The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Anthony Baez, Amadou Diallo and Gideon Busch brought into question the conduct of police officers while on duty, and were hallmarks of a time in which many American cities adopted aggressive law enforcement strategies to fight crime. Baez died while in police custody, and though the police report originally stated he died of asthma, an independent autopsy revealed that choking was the cause of death. Diallo was shot by police while entering his apartment building in the Bronx, and Busch, an emotionally disturbed man, was shot during an outburst in which police claimed he threatened them with a hammer. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that none of these men had committed a crime at the time of their collision with the police.
The Diallo case in particular revealed the activities of the elite undercover division of the NYPD known as the Street Crimes Unit. Their methods led to the targeting of certain neighborhoods and the criminalization of daily activities. The members of the division were 98% white and wore t-shirts reading "We Own The Night," both unsettling details in light of Diallo's shooting death.
The charges against officer Francis Livoti, who choked Baez, were originally dropped due to a technicality, causing a sit-in at the Bronx District Attorney's office. When the officers involved in Diallo's case were acquitted, there was civil unrest in the Bronx unlike anything that had been seen since the 1960s. And six months later when Gideon Busch was shot 12 times while waving a hammer in the air, there was outcry in his community. The Busch case also highlighted police mishandling of cases involving persons with mental illnesses.
Iris Baez, Kadiatou Diallo and Doris Busch Boskey, the mothers of the three men, are members of the National Action Network, an organization of concerned citizens who are combating police brutality through education campaigns and legislation reform. Through lobbying, educational campaigns, and speaking engagements, the Network strives to correct the relationship of reciprocity between law enforcement and the legal system. As a result of their work, Francis Livoti was sentenced to seven years in prison for violating Anthony Baez's civil rights, and in 2003 federal prosecutors found evidence that the officers in the Busch shooting had fabricated their report. The federal government has declined to prosecute the Diallo case, but the Network is pursuing lawsuits against the city and its members continue to speak out for police reform.
Every Mother's Son - Doris Busch Boskey (R), Kadiatou Diallo and Iris Baez (L), featured in Every Mother's Son, by Tami Gold and Kelly Anderson
With adult guidance and preparation for descriptions of violence, this film would be suitable for younger audiences of high school age.