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Sidney L. Harring

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The Diallo Verdict: Another “Tragic Accident” in New York’s War on Street Crime?

Sidney L. Harring challenges the premise that excessive police violence is the price we must pay to improve the quality of urban life. He argues that Amadou Diallo’s shooting death resulted from aggressive and racist police practices, deeply rooted in current New York police policy. Such practices led to the killing of four unarmed black men in 13 months. The article describes the brutal circumstances of the police shooting and the mishandling of the trial, which legally justified New York’s aggressive policing policy by concluding that the killing of Diallo was an “accident,” an unavoidable consequence of good police work. Harring examines how tactical squads, like the one that killed Diallo, routinely violate the Fourth Amendment and the civil rights of the victims of the searches. Such illegal searches (rousts) for guns or contraband drugs in “high-crime areas” generate the daily statistics that make both the squad and the precinct look good under the “comstat” computer-based police accountability programs that structure police management in New York and many other cities.

police use of force — New York; police tactical squads; police statistics — management; search and seizure; Fourth Amendment; African Americans — social conditions; criminal justice — racial discrimination; local government — New York City; prison

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 27, No. 1 (2000): 9-18