In Defense of the Police

by | May 20, 1999 | POLITICS

“Almost all criminal defendants are, in fact, guilty.” — Alan Dershowitz, “The Best Defense,” 1982. Assume, for a moment, that Dershowitz got it right — that most of the guys the cops legitimately hook and book, the ones the DA prosecutes, did it. If true, this makes the “black community” reaction to the Riverside, Calif., […]
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

“Almost all criminal defendants are, in fact, guilty.” — Alan Dershowitz, “The Best Defense,” 1982.

Assume, for a moment, that Dershowitz got it right — that most of the guys the cops legitimately hook and book, the ones the DA prosecutes, did it. If true, this makes the “black community” reaction to the Riverside, Calif., shooting death of Tyisha Miller all the more tragic.

Here’s what happened. Early in the morning of Dec. 28, 1998, a 19-year-old black woman sat in her locked car, motor running, with a gun in her lap. Her cousin and friend called 911, and four officers arrived, three whites and one Hispanic. The officers found her apparently incoherent, perhaps even having a seizure. They tried to arouse Miller by shaking the car, shining a light into her face, and honking a horn. Nothing worked.

(A toxicology report later showed Miller to be one-and-one-half times above the legal limit for alcohol, with traces of marijuana in her system.)

Given what appeared to be a medical emergency, the police broke the window nearest the gun, so that it could be removed and medics could attend to her.

By law, medics cannot render assistance until police eliminate the threat posed by the gun.

Tragically, the shattering of the window apparently startled Tyisha, and officers say she moved toward her gun. They shot her nearly two dozen times, hitting her 12 times.

Following the shooting, the Riverside Police Department announced an investigation, as did the Riverside DA’s office, as well as the FBI. Jesse Jackson, giving new meaning to the term “rush to judgment,” called the shooting “an execution.”

The decision not to charge the officers still leaves them vulnerable, however, to civil liability. And to that end, the Miller family just retained Johnnie Cochran, who attributed the shooting to racism, saying that “enough is enough.” The Rev. Al Sharpton, fresh from falsely accusing a New York prosecutor of raping Tawana Brawley, came to town, chanting: “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”

Former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler hated to pass, saying, “When you do, three things can happen, and two of ’em are bad.” Yet based on the facts known so far, these officers had precious few, if any, good options.

Back to Dershowitz’s dictum that “almost all criminal defendants are, in fact, guilty.” The “black leadership’s” attack on these four officers — the willingness to assume the worst of motives — reinforces the “victicrat” mantra: “The cops hate us. The cops are racist. The cops are stormtroopers.” Given that attitude, who loses? The inner-city community.

See, the race-card leaders and lawyers condition prospective jurors to doubt police testimony, however compelling. Can you say, “the O. J. Simpson case”? Nationwide, the criminal trial acquittal rate is approximately 17 percent. But in predominantly black areas, like the Bronx and Wayne County (Detroit), the acquittal rates are nearly three times higher. What do you suppose these, uh, gentlemen do when they hit the streets? Take a computer software correspondence course and apply for a job at Microsoft? Or do they commit more crimes, and against the very jurors who cut them loose?

The anti-cop “victicrat” mentality has another effect. It makes cops less “proactive,” less likely to investigate something suspicious, less willing to stick their necks out. After all, what’s the upside?

Homeowners place burglar bars on homes not because of Mark Fuhrman, but because of the young punk down the street. Certainly there are bad cops. But not most.

In 1991, following the videotaped beating of Rodney King, the Warren Christopher Commission identified a “problem group” of dozens of officers. But the percentage amounted to a small fraction of the total.

In 1998, LAPD officers answered close to a million calls, made around 200,000 arrests and issued about half-a-million citations for moving violations. The department received 481 complaints of unauthorized force, with 217 sustained in some way by department investigation.

(The number of complaints in 1998 increased three to four times over previous years, due to the newly installed chief’s aggressive policy to encourage citizen complaints.)

Considering the million police-citizen “interactions,” our men and women in blue do a good job under stressful, often unrewarding conditions. Racism?

Well, compared to the NYPD, the Washington, D.C., Police Department — a predominately black force — is six times more likely to shoot at a suspect. Cops endure a rough, tough, often thankless job. And on top of that, they are frequently called bigots. But how many of us are willing to get up in the morning and take a bullet for somebody we don’t even know? The answer, after Tyisha Miller, is a lot less than before.

We all lose.

This editorial is made available through Creator's Syndicate. Best-selling author, radio and TV talk show host, Larry Elder has a take-no-prisoners style, using such old-fashioned things as evidence and logic. His books include: The 10 Things You Can’t Say in America, Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America, and What’s Race Got to Do with It? Why it’s Time to Stop the Stupidest Argument in America,.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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