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April 2000

Can We Shoot Cops Now Too?

This is the case of Amadou Diallo, who was shot in New York City by four police officers. Jurors who acquitted four white police officers on all charges in the killing of an African immigrant in New York City say race was not an issue in their verdict. Who ever really said that it was? The point was that an innocent man was killed after most likely thinking he was complying with the police.

The jurors said they focused on the legal, rather than the political details of the case. Diallo was unarmed when the police officers fired 41 rounds at him in February, 1998, hitting him with 19 shots as he stood in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building. Four cops, one man, one supposed weapon while standing in a small enclosed area - how much is really needed to take someone down? 41 shots? Does the word overkill come to mind?

Testifying in their own defense at a trial in Albany, N.Y., the officers all said they shot at Diallo after he pulled a wallet out of his coat, which they mistook for a gun. Diallo's family, supported by civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, is considering pursuing a federal civil rights case against the officers.

Did it ever occur to anyone that this all seemed a little bit too convenient? Do not most police ask a suspect to produce identification? Would Diallo not have been complying by pulling out his wallet? The personal judgement was wrong - flat out. Assuming the worst - that the cops had planned to shoot him anyways to "remove another scum-bag from our streets" - they could have asked him to pull out some I.D. in order to have a legal excuse to exercise force in the face of possible danger.

In view of some other recent events in which potential suspects have run from the police due to fear of bodily violence and others, this type of story only serves to reinforce the public's fear of "rogue cops" - few and far between as they may be. More and more do we hear about "that one cop" or so who chose to overuse his given powers and overstep his boundaries.

So, when cops like these get let off by our court systems and juries, mostly due to the fact that the actual "question" of law has been worded such so as to guarantee an acquittal, it reinforces fears and retaliatory responses from people. What are we to do now? What is the message given here? That these four policemen, sworn to "do their duty" in upholding the law, were allowed to shoot an unarmed and compliatory man. In so, I would suppose that that gives us the same legal message: If we are to be afraid of a particular police officer who we feel may do us harm, the legal message here is to shoot him - many times if necessary, because it takes 41 shots to bring down one man. Don't forget to ask for his I.D. first to give probable cause.

Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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