Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVI, No. 532 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY April 30, 2000

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Police K-9 is a hard bargain; 120-mile foot pursuit; hare-raising stories.
Collateral damage: Fallout from Elian Gonzalez case claims the career of Miami chief.
Enough’s enough: Prosecutors tell Feds, “Handle your own drug cases.”
Missing in action: Auditors find more cash gone from PD’s evidence room.
A cop named sue: Cleared in assault, officer takes his accusers to court.
Down on the farm: Rustling, poaching & California’s Rural Crime School.
Agony & Ecstasy: Customs Service leads the charge against growing drug fad.
Good will is priceless: Town’s police force gets a new lease on life.
High-tech hopes: Department sees advanced fingerprint device as answer to clearance concerns.
Forum: Former police lieutenant & expert witness reflects on the Diallo case.
Look, but don’t touch: Supreme Court’s new curb on luggage searches.
Ground zero: Frustrated ranchers take illegal-alien problem into their own hands.
Two-fers: Police in Michigan, Washington nab elusive serial killers.
House of horrors: Working in an NYPD station house can be hazardous to a cop’s health.

Note to Readers:

The opinions expressed on the Forum page are those of the contributing writer or cartoonist, or of the original source newspaper, and do not represent an official position of Law Enforcement News.

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Reaching a proper verdict in the Diallo case

      I consulted and testified as an unpaid “police practices expert” in the Amadou Diallo prosecution because I was convinced of two things: First, convictions would have compounded an already terrible tragedy; second, the jury would convict only if it overlooked the law and the facts and, instead, decided the case on the basis of the emotion and politicization it has engendered.
      To convict, the Bronx District Attorney needed to overcome two obstacles. The first was a major difference between civil law and criminal law. Deaths caused by good-faith mistakes on the part of people who are properly performing their jobs are civil wrongs, and usually result in compensation to decedents’ survivors. But, historically, we have not criminalized such mistakes. The second was the burden of convincing the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that, during the few seconds when they pulled their triggers, the accused officers did not fear for their lives. It is very difficult to prove a negative and, given the evidence, I saw that this proposition did not apply to the four accused officers. Under the circumstances they faced, any reasonable cop would have feared imminent death...