To the Editor:
I am a former chief of police of Savannah, Georgia, and I hold a Ph.D. in social science from Michigan State. No big deal in themselves, but I believe they indicate I may know a little something about crime, criminals, and police behavior. William Tucker’s article [“Is Police Brutality the Problem?,” January] contains many anecdotal verities, but its tone and implied solution to the problem of violent crime negate any overall seriousness it may aspire to. Yes, police brutality, police discourtesy, police misbehavior are problems, but they are not epidemic problems, while false accusations against the police are precisely that in many urban areas. Because of this fact police are often and, I believe, increasingly reluctant to take action lest they be saddled with career-threatening accusations.
Where Mr. Tucker is wrong is in his premise that police inaction acts as a catalyst for violent crime in the black ghetto. Come on! Violent crime in the inner cities is generated to a very large extent by the social disintegration of large segments of the black community. It is scarcely hindered by a criminal-justice system which can put away only a minor percentage of even the most violent criminals and cannot keep that percentage off the streets for any significant length of time. The most fearless police force in the world cannot remove those obstacles to public safety.
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