Race, crime and justice

An unfair police practice

When four white New York policemen were accused—and eventually acquitted—of murdering an innocent, unarmed black man, the issue of race could hardly be avoided, though it could not be introduced into courtroom proceedings. The officers had stopped Amadou Diallo in 1999 on a routine patrol in the Bronx and ended up shooting him after they mistook the wallet he pulled from his pocket for a gun. If Diallo were white, the odds are great that he would not have been stopped for questioning, much less have been shot to death for reaching for his wallet.

But the jury in the case was not asked to decide about racial prejudice in the New York City Police Department; it was simply asked to decide if the officers had committed murder. On this point, the jurors (black and white) answered with a reasonable no—the police were guilty of a terrible mistake, but not murder.


This article is available to subscribers only. Please subscribe for full access—subscriptions begin at $2.95. Already have an online account? Log in now. Already a print subscriber? Create an online account for no additional cost.

This article is available to subscribers only.