Police in the Docket

The Christian Science Monitor, February 28, 2000 | Go to article overview

Police in the Docket


From New York to Los Angeles, recent misdeeds by police have put a searchlight on new, aggressive tactics to reduce crime.

In Los Angeles, some 70 antigang officers are being investigated in connection with the planting of evidence, unjustified shootings, and false arrests. Already, 40 criminal convictions have been reversed, with hundreds more possibly being overturned soon.

Many officers in the LAPD may have thought they were doing society's bidding by cracking down on any suspicious people who fit the stereotypes of a criminal.

In New York last Friday, a jury handed down a verdict in the shooting death of a black immigrant, Amadou Diallo, by four white policemen. While the officers were acquitted, the case nonetheless raises concerns about how special anticrime units are being trained.

Obviously, not very well. New York's law-and-order mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, admits that police need to develop more cultural sensitivity toward minorities. "We probably don't always do the best job of training everyone," he said.

For minorities who often fear the police more than they do criminals, the Diallo verdict - while perhaps logical and by the book - wasn't enough. They're outraged that the law would acquit police officers who too quickly assumed that a black man pulling something out of his pocket was reaching for a gun. (Diallo was actually pulling out his wallet.)

The jury (which included four blacks) said the police justifiably feared for their lives in firing 41 shots at an innocent man. …

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