Corruption

A tale of police misconduct in two cities

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It's not hard to stay up to speed on the case of Amadou Diallo. Turn on the national network news or open any newspaper and you'll get the latest on the four New York City cops now on trial for killing an unarmed man after shooting at him 41 times. "Diallo" may soon be a household word, a synonym for "cops out of control."

The name "Raul Rodiguez" is unlikely to become nearly as familiar. It belongs to a man who spent two and half years in prison on drug and murder charges after police fabricated evidence against him and illegally searched his house. Rodriguez is among the scores of victims of one of the worst police corruption scandals in history, which is now unfolding in Los Angeles. Turns out cops there have been routinely planting evidence on suspects, lying in court, beating people up, stealing cash, drugs and weapons—you name it. As many as 70 officers are now under investigation in the scandal, which threatens to undermine the entire criminal justice system in Los Angeles. Civil suits arising from the corruption could bankrupt the city.

But, as the New York Times reports today, the public and politicians don't seem too interested in this scandal—apparently because most of the wrongly-imprisoned people are believed to be associated with gangs or were thought to be guilty of lesser crimes anyway.

From the Times article:

"We're talking about people who belonged in prison, just not for those reasons," a former police official said. "The police may have stepped over the line, but they had to be tough with these people, let's be honest." Added a prosecutor: "The broad majority of citizens in this city don't care that a bunch of drug dealers have been put in jail on trumped up charges. The guilty going free is more politically volatile than the innocent being declared guilty."

But if we can't believe the cops, how are we supposed to know who's really guilty and who's not? Apparently it doesn't matter.

You'll have a tough time even following the L.A. scandal if you rely on the TV networks and most local papers for news. They're too busy covering the Diallo shooting, which increasingly looks like a very serious mistake, rather than a calculated act of malice on the part of the cops.

The New York City officers might now be wondering why they didn't just plant a gun or drugs on Diallo's body. The whole incident might have been behind them by now. Let's hope that's not the lesson cops on both coasts learn as they witness the stark contrast in public and media reaction to these two cases.

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