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Cops in the Crossfire

NCJ Number
ABA Journal Volume: 86 Dated: October 2000 Pages: 58-62
Terry Carter
Date Published
October 2000
4 pages
This article examines use of a private criminal complaint against a white police officer for use of deadly force against a black civilian.
Relations between African-American communities and police tend to be edgy in big cities. That is particularly so in Philadelphia, the scene during the 1990's of several incidents involving racial profiling, excessive force, and questionable internal affairs investigations. Since 1996 the police department has been operating under the equivalent of a consent decree, monitored by a federal judge, the ACLU, and the NAACP. After the shooting death of an unarmed young black man by a white officer in October 1998, a white judge threw out manslaughter charges against the policeman involved. A group of black elected officials then filed a private criminal complaint and got a black judge to order the district attorney to pursue murder, not manslaughter, charges. If the black elected officials succeed in using a little-known, archaic statute that allows for private justice, the disciplining of police in Pennsylvania - from internal affairs through the courts - may never be the same.