Inglewood: arresting while white
7/25/2002 12:00:00 AM - Larry Elder
"We say, 'Do the right thing, or else.'"
The Nation of Islam's Tony Mohamed issued that threat to the
city of Inglewood. "There is 100 percent dissent among the people," said
Mohamed, "and this city of Inglewood is on the brink of insurrection."
Insurrection? A videotape of several police officers subduing a 16-year-old
black suspect in that Los Angeles suburb sparked the controversy. The video
appears to show excessive force against the young man, with a white officer
slamming the seemingly limp suspect against the hood of a car, and later
striking the suspect with his fist. Soon 500 protestors gathered in
Inglewood, chanting, "No Justice, No Peace."
Enter New York's Reverend Al Sharpton, who promptly deemed the
incident racially motivated. (In a city like Inglewood, virtually 100
percent black and Hispanic, this means that any stop by a white police
officer automatically becomes racially motivated.)
Pardon the question, but from where, exactly, does Al Sharpton
derive his credibility and moral authority? Years ago in New York, black
teenager Tawana Brawley claimed white racists abducted and sexually
assaulted her. She was found wrapped in a garbage bag with feces smeared on
her and racial slurs scrawled on her body.
A grand jury, however, found the entire affair a complete hoax.
Sharpton, nevertheless, claimed the incident true, and publicly accused
then-assistant district attorney Steven Pagones of committing the act!
Pagones sued. A jury unanimously found Sharpton liable, and the Reverend
promptly announced his intention not to pay. Sharpton's buddies passed the
hat and paid off his portion of the judgment. But, to this day, Sharpton
refuses to apologize. An accommodating media never bothers to bring it up.
What "white leader" would retain credibility after this hideous farce?
Martin Luther King III also came to town, and incredibly stated
that he found "little" change in the country's race relations since his
father's death 35 years ago. Really? Let's see. The Inglewood chief of
police, Ronald C. Banks, is black. So is the city's mayor. Of the city's
council members, half are black. Inglewood is a city of approximately
120,000 people, most of whom are black and Hispanic. While whites comprise
43 percent of Inglewood's police department, the majority are non-whites.
Nothing's changed? Many big city police departments, Los Angeles
included, operate under federal consent decrees, which mandate diversity in
hiring and promotion. In Los Angeles, as is the case with many police
forces, nearly 50 percent of the street cops -- the kind suspects
encounter -- are female and minority.
Nothing's changed? Police use of force, over the years, declined
dramatically. In 1997, the FBI recorded 353 uses of deadly force by the
police. In 1993, the figure stood at 455. Police shootings declined even
though, from 1976 to 1998, the United States added 200,000 police officers.
New York City now sees fewer fatal police shootings per officer than, say,
San Diego, a city with a good law enforcement reputation.
The very reaction to the videotape demonstrates our nation's
intolerance toward perceived acts of racism. The Inglewood videotape became
not just a local, state or national story, but international news. Attorney
General John Ashcroft promptly dispatched his top civil rights lawyer to Los
Angeles, and the FBI announced an investigation. The Los Angeles County
Board of Supervisors ordered a report. The Inglewood police department
announced an investigation, as did the Los Angeles County Sheriff's
Department. The L.A. County DA called for his own investigation, and the
16-year-old and his father filed a civil rights lawsuit.
Why is it important not to demonize all police officers, the
overwhelming majority of whom serve competently and fairly, while risking
their lives for us? Inglewood, as with many cities, faces a police manpower
shortage. Denying cops due process, presumptively accusing them of racial
animus, does not serve as ideal public service announcements for
Widespread, knee-jerk distrust of the police testimony allows
violent criminals to go free when their defense attorneys put the government
on trial, a la O.J., for its alleged misconduct. Nationwide, the felony
acquittal rate for criminal defendants stands at approximately 17 percent.
But in predominantly minority areas like Washington, D.C., Detroit and the
Bronx, primarily minority juries cut loose minority defendants at two to
three times the national average. Many of these guys go out and commit
violent assaults against the very civilians who freed them.
Expect the police to grow more passive. Ask Cincinnati, where
following riots over alleged police brutality, crime -- especially in black
areas -- soared. Why engage in proactive law enforcement when bad guys
simply scream "harassment," expecting victicrat leaders to back them up?
Meanwhile, at nearby L.A. Unified School District's Fremont High
School, one-third of incoming freshmen read at no better than a third-grade
level. And 70 percent of the district's fourth-graders cannot read at grade
level. Oh, well . . .