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Jewish World ReviewMarch 3, 2000/ 26 Adar I, 5760

Larry Elder

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Cops -- how bad are they?

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- NOT GUILTY.

An Albany, N.Y. jury, consisting of four blacks, acquitted four white officers charged in the shooting death of West African Amadou Diallo. The undercover cops, looking for a rapist, cornered Diallo in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment. They ordered him to put his hands up, and make no false or sudden move. Diallo, for some reason, reached for his wallet. Mistaking the wallet for a weapon, a cop yelled, "Gun," and the officers fired 41 times, striking Diallo with 19 bullets.

Activists immediately criticized the decision. The Rev. Al Sharpton denounced the verdict, demanding that the federal government file civil rights charges against the four officers. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't even wait for the verdict, having earlier pronounced the officers murderers. And, in a debate just days before the verdict, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley called the shooting an "outrage," strongly suggesting the officers guilty.

These are not good times for cops. New York cops beat and sodomized Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant. And, in Riverside, Calif., four police officers shot and killed a 19-year-old black teenager, Tyisha Miller. Miller, apparently unconscious, sat in a locked car with her engine running, and a gun near her lap. The officers shot 24 times, striking her 12.

Out-of-control cops! Vigilante-ism, with a badge! Whom do inner-city residents fear more, asks Sharpton, bad guys or bad cops?

Economist and columnist Walter E. Williams recently wrote, "Most violent crime in our country is committed by blacks. According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, blacks commit 54 percent of murders, 42 percent of forcible rapes, 59 percent of robberies and 38 percent of aggravated assaults. For the most part, the victims are black. Ninety-three percent of murdered blacks were murdered by a black." Does this help to answer Reverend Al's question?

Oh, by the way, police shootings and killings are down. Dramatically. In Los Angeles, police shootings dropped 22 percent from 1993 to 1997. Nationwide, police killings declined 22 percent over the same period. Even in New York, police shootings fell. And, nationwide, over 95 percent of officers never fire their guns in their entire careers.

In fact, Washington, D.C., a predominately black city policed by a predominantly black force, sees far more shootings per cop than any city in the country. As for fatal shootings per 1,000 officers, New York rates a 0.48. In Philadelphia it's 0.72; Dallas, 1.05; Miami, 2.01; and Washington, D.C., 3.12.

The Los Angeles Police Department faces the most serious corruption scandal in its history. So far, 20 officers have been terminated or suspended, with the total number of officers under scrutiny approaching 70. Still, this represents well under 1 percent of a city police force of nearly 10,000 sworn officers.

Compare police performance to other areas of government. Government schools educate most of America's children. Our kids rank near the bottom in math, science, and history, against our European and Asian counterparts. In Oakland, Calif., the average grade is D-plus.

The post office enjoys a monopoly on first class mail, but gets whipped by Fed-Ex and UPS in the package delivery business.

Look at our quasi-government "health care system." According to the New England Journal of Medicine, medical negligence results in 100,000 deaths annually. Medicare and Medicaid fraud might approximate nearly 10 percent of total outlays. A 10 percent defect rate for, say, the LAPD, translates into nearly 1,000 bad cops. Yet in 1998, the LAPD answered about one million calls. They received 635 complaints of officer discourtesy, of which 236 were found to have some merit. They received 481 complaints of unauthorized force, and of these, 217 were sustained in some way by department investigation.

The police perform pretty darn well -- and with good reason. Is there a public function more closely scrutinized, analyzed, dissected, poked at, second-guessed, and written about? Civil rights laws provide financial incentives for attorneys to sue for damages. Organizations like the ACLU and the NAACP serve as watchdogs over the cops.

The mainstream media -- staffed with predominately liberal, "I-feel-your-pain," reporters -- stand ready to pounce on any whiff of a bad cop story -- especially white cop, black victim.

I once saw a black teenager at a mall wearing a T-shirt that said, "You'll never understand, it's a black thing." Yet, somehow, everybody seems to understand what it's like to be a cop. We're experts, having logged in hours watching "NYPD Blue" and "Kojak." But in real life, real cops must make split-second life-and-death decisions. A "volley" or "rash" of 41 bullets takes mere seconds. Second-guessers enjoy the luxury of taking of taking weeks, months, years.

Cops need better PR. How about T-shirts saying "You wouldn't understand, it's a police thing?"


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate