Excerpts from A Murder By The Police

ACT ONE: The Killing
While looking for a suspect, or simply because they feel their authority has been challenged, members of the city's 73.7% white police force confront their next victim, usu-ally a person of color. Moments later, that victim is dead, perhaps due to multiple gunshot wounds or strangulation.

Wasting no time, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association kicks into gear. As recommended by a PBA delegate, the cops know to keep silent, and not even mention the killing over their radio. By state law; they have a 48-hour period following any police incident in which they are allowed to continue this silence. During this period, the PBA works hard to put a good "story" together. No matter how absurd the tale, the PBA makes sure the cops look innocent.

ACT TWO: The Grand Jury
The case may then go before a grand jury to determine if an indictment is necessary. A majority of jury members must vote for indictment or the officer is off the hook. To help its cause, the PBA portrays the murder victim as violent or drug-abusing. About 90% of the time, this tactic works.

If the grand jury does vote for indictment, the PBA may go as far as staging a protest outside the court-house, perhaps prompting a sympathetic district attorney to recommend that the indictment be dropped.

ACT THREE: The Trial
If there is a trial, it can be held before a jury or a judge at the defendant's choice. Beforehand, the PBA is all over the place, providing lawyers to the cop(s) on trial and dealing with the media, while other cops investigating the case "fail" to locate key witnesses who might contradict police accounts. During the trial, the PBA encourages members to come out to the courtroom where they can taunt and intimidate the victims' family. In the court-room, PBA lawyers harass witnesses and call other cops to the stand to testify.

This tried-and-true formula usually works. Over-whelmed by the testimony of the witness cops, and fooled by the story developed during "the 48-hour peri-od," the judge or jury usually acquits, or the cops are found guilty of a lesser charge.

new abolitionist society
copyright 1999