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The media, on trial at Rodney King trial, also guilty.

Since the announcement that a federal Rodney King beating trial would occur, media speculation focused on whether violence would be renewed in Los Angeles if the four offices were acquitted.

Now the media are focusing on whether violence will erupt when sentencing for Sgt. Stacey Koon and Officer Laurence Powell is announced on Aug. 4. They also are focusing on whether violence will follow the Reginald Denny beating trial, also scheduled for the summer.

The question the media should ask is, Can anyone other than a white person get justice in America?

Despite the split verdicts, our judicial system is on trial, and the jurors are the black and brown residents of America's inner cities, the primary victims of police brutality.

The media also are being judged for failing to get the story right -- for focusing on the short-term, instead of the long-term, consequences the videotape and trials have had upon our already beleaguered judicial system.

Other missing stories:

* Why internal investigations summarily dismiss police brutality complaints.

* How the system of plea bargaining is in effect an insurance policy for police officers who commit brutality.

* Why district attorneys generally accept police reports at face value.

* Why most cases of police abuse are not reported to police.

* Why civilian police-complaint boards are ineffective.

* How all-white juries continue to sit in judgment of nonwhites and why almost all juries invariably tend to believe the police.

* Why politicians are virtually scared to take on the issue of police brutality.

* Why the public has been conditioned to believe there is a fine line between "justified use of force" and police brutality.

Before the videotaped beating of Rodney King, the media abetted police brutality by ignoring what many in major cities have known all along: Almost all victims of police brutality are African-American or Latino inner-city youth.

Through lack of solid reporting, the media has allowed a false public debate over whether the King beating was racially motivated. Knowledge that almost all victims are black or brown, de facto or de jure, renders the argument irrelevant.

The media failure can perhaps be explained by a report of the African-American, Asian, American Indian and Latino national journalism organizations, "Kerner Plus 25: A Call for Action." It documents that more than 99 percent of all newspaper editors and executive editors in the country are white. The figures are similar for television and radio news decision-makers.

That explains why the media have not pursued the story from the point of view of those who live in communities that are daily ravaged by police abuse and who have to contend with an unequal justice system. According to Karol Heppe, director of Police Watch, a Los Angeles organization that monitors police abuse, police brutality in Los Angeles and around the country has not subsided as a result of the videotaped beating of King.

At this moment, the U.S. Department of Justice is sitting on 47,000 cases of police brutality.

The biggest missed story is that the events and verdicts have not vindicated the judicial system. The threat is still there that a whole generation of inner city youth will grow up without faith in the law. This in turn threatens to unleash a whole generation of homicidal and suicidal youths on the streets. Our streets will become more unsafe and our correctional system and cemeteries will become blacker and browner.

That's a rage that white America is unable to comprehend because the mass media have not done their jobs.

Roberto Rodriguez, a senior writer for Black Issues in Higher Education, won a $205,000 jury award in 1986 against four white police officers in Los Angeles. The officers were found guilty of using excessive force and of violating his civil rights.
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Author:Rodriguez, Roberto
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Apr 30, 1993
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