Sunday, July 14, 2002

Send Lawyers, Tapes and Money

Talk about a story with legs. The L.A. police beating of teen Donovan Jackson and the arrest of videotaper Mitchell Crooks is it this week.

Saturday, as the mayor of Inglewood pleaded for calm, Congresswoman Maxine Waters took to the streets and television cameras in LA to raise money for Crooks' legal defense in Placer, California, the town he was flown to after his arrest, grand jury appearance, alleged roughing up by investigators for the D.A.'s office, L.A. jailing and extradition. What a week he had!

Waters is making sure Crooks gets his due as a hero. Her comments, as reported in the LA Times:

"We will go to Placer .... We will stand with him. We will help to pay his lawyers. We will support his bail. We will do whatever is necessary to say to citizens, when you come forward, when you are willing to stand up, when you see abuse by the police department or anybody else, we are gonna honor you."

"We don't care what he's been accused of ....Those are minor offenses, we have learned, and we are going to help him out."

The community is already planning a celebration for Crooks when he gets out of jail. According to Ms. Waters,

"We are going to ask the mayor to block off a whole block. And we are going to invite the entire community. We are going to have the biggest welcome party you have ever seen."

We are glad that Crooks will not be forgotten by the Inglewood community. But what we really want to see is the mayor come through on his call for the installation of videocameras in patrol cars.

Videotaping is clearly the most recommended remedy to police misconduct.

Videotaping leads to real improvements in police interrogation practices that protect the rights of suspects. Officers now know that everything they do in the interrogation room could be viewed one day in a courtroom.

Videotaping interrogations and arrests is good for the police too. It protects them against baseless claims of coercing a confession or violating a suspect's constitutional rights. Frivolous claims by suspects will diminish once they know that judges and jurors can see the interview and decide for themselves whether detectives intimidated the suspect.

Police and prosecutors have little to fear from a requirement to videotape all interrogations and traffic stops. It's a win-win situation. Videotaping can protect the innocent, help convict the guilty and uphold the public's faith in our criminal justice system.

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