Anti-Community Policing

St. Louis County cops earn the distrust of African-Americans

No doubt many whites will resent this, but the anger among African-Americans is deeply rooted and undeniable over still another killing of blacks by white officers. Whatever one thinks of that, it cannot simply be ignored.

The Urban League's Buford -- a soft-spoken, respected black man best described as a moderate/conservative (and the son of a 25-year police officer) -- is not given to hyperbole. But to him, this is unmistakably a racial issue. And a dangerous one.

"Blacks are guilty until proven innocent, and whites are innocent until proven guilty in this country today," he said. "We don't have equal application of the law.

"There's a high level of anger and tension in the black community, across all lines of economic status, gender and education," Buford told me. "I was very pleased with Janet Reno's response -- that may be keeping a lid on this thing -- but we could still have a very serious problem in pockets of North County, especially if there were another incident with police."

Buford says blacks are concerned about their low level of representation on the drug task force and throughout county law enforcement and that the nonreaction by county officials to this incident is making things worse.

"The cavalier attitude of the county police department shows a disregard to the sensitivity of the African-American community," Buford says. "If this had happened in the city, (Police Chief) Ron Henderson would have been out there and the mayor would have been out there.

"Where's Ron Battelle and Bob McCulloch and (County Executive) Buzz Westfall? They should have had something to say about this."

It appears their silence says it all.

Let's just hope it's not fuel for the fire.

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