February 29, 2000

To the Editor, Hartford Courant:

Your editorial, "Outrage in Albany," insulted by innuendo the intelligence and the integrity of the racially-mixed Albany jury that had acquitted the four white NYPD officers in the shooting death of the black African immigrant, Amadou Diallo. As one who followed the case on Court TV, I concluded that the jury had no choice according to Judge Teresi's instructions on the law but to acquit the officers - even on the charge of reckless endangerment - unless the jury believed beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers had violated police procedures. In fact, a police training expert who usually testifies against police officers in cases of violence, James Fyfe, stated at the trial that the officers' actions were consistent with their training and with accepted NYPD procedures.

The prime task of the jury was to get inside the minds of the four officers to determine motive. Do the editororial writers of the Courant claim the ability to get inside the minds of not only these four men, but of all twelve jurors as well? Even the prosecution team does not deny that these jurors worked reasonably and methodically.

Indeed, there are guilty parties in the homicide of this human being, who was guilty of nothing more than being a black man with a wallet, standing in the vestibule of his own apartment building. They are the NYPD and the City of New York, which at the time had, to say the least, inadequate police procedures. But the most culpable of all is American society, which tolerates racist attitudes that encourage the police to single out black males for suspicion and harassment.

Justice will not be served by subjecting the officers to federal civil rights charges. Rather, the NYPD and the city should be made to pay a substantial civil penalty to the family of Mr. Diallo. Above all, police training must root out from the attitudes of law enforcement officers the racist stereotypes that pervades our entire society.


Jay S. Lapidus

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