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Searching for peace with police

By Al Mollo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 12, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Al Mollo

"I only have time to tell you one riddle," the officer said to us. "What is the only rock group to have one of its members assassinated and all the others die of natural causes?"

I had pulled up beside the New York Port Authority Police car and, I must admit, was totally lost. On a recent visit back home to New Jersey, I was headed to a movie with a girl I had just met. We were driving along the Jersey side of the Hudson River, looking for a theater in a town neither of us had heard of.

Officer Farley joked that we were "looking at a guy who had no idea how to get to Guttenburg, but one with a partner who is originally from there."

He radioed his partner and, within minutes, Officer Delaney pulled up and gave us directions. We were on our way.

I expect that some of you may be taken back by this positive recount, considering the media obsession with the New York City tragedy that left one man dead and four police officers accused of murder.

As the shooting of Amadou Diallo has crippled the authority of the NYPD, and threatens to do great damage to the legitimacy of police officers nationwide, it is important that we take a deep breath and look beneath the hysteria.

There is no question that the shooting of Diallo was a tragedy. A tragedy yes, but a crime?

These four officers have been indicted and will face trial. A jury of their peers will weigh the evidence and render a verdict. If they are found to be guilty of intentionally taking Diallo's life, they must be severely, severely punished. However, if the evidence shows that the actions of these officers were the result of unfortunate human error, we must be prepared to live with that as well.

Whether a crime or a tragedy, one thing remains the same: Most of the men and women in blue are good. As they put on their uniforms each day, so they put their lives on the line for us. While these brave soldiers are of our most precious assets, we must also realize that they are human. Due to the fact that the job leaves nearly no room for error, officers of the law are often expected to be perfect. And while it is important that they strive for that perfection at each moment, at times they will fall short.

I work part-time as a waiter in a restaurant. If I should serve a steak that is well-done opposed to medium-rare, or accidentally order a Santa Fe Chicken Salad instead of the Fajita Quesadillas, there is little harm done (although often contrary to what a hungry guest might think). However, when a police officer acts under flawed judgment, like a well-meaning surgeon operating on a patient, the results can be dreadful.

While I would never be so insensitive as to compare the tragic shooting of Amadou Diallo to my blunders at Applebee's, there is a valid point to be understood. Each day, these ordinary Americans are called upon to be extraordinary. And most of the time, they are.

During a time when there are those taking advantage of terrible suffering to further their dangerous agendas, it was reassuring to be reminded by Officers Farley and Delaney what the police are truly about.

So the next time you hear the irresponsibly inflamed and intellectually dishonest rhetoric about how wicked the police are, think of them.

To be honest, though, we never did make it to the movie. But you all don't need to hear about that. And, just in case you were wondering, the rock group was Mt. Rushmore.