News Release ~ 07/21/2000

Party Platforms Must Renounce and Reform Police Misconduct

Tale of Two Cities: Philadelphia and L.A. 

Washington, DC (July 21, 2000) -- “The beating of a suspect by the Philadelphia police is another example of what appears to be a systemic problem within police forces across the nation. This time the beating was televised. I hate to think of how often citizen abuse occurs when the cameras aren’t there,” said William B. Moffitt, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). This latest, highly-publicized black eye for law enforcement comes on the heels of disturbing reports of police brutality in New York City, and the worst scandal in the scarred history of the LAPD, with 28 officers thus far having been implicated in a corruption scandal which has led to the dismissal of dozens of previous convictions.

“We recognize that there may have been some provocation on the part of the suspect, but the brutal, overkill of force exhibited by the 12 police officers on the scene was extremely inappropriate. This kind of physical assault is an assault on our collective conscience, yet it happens everyday in America. This video exposes a deep-seated problem which must be addressed in the mentality and training of police departments everywhere,” said Moffitt.

Earlier this week, Amtrak police in Philadelphia shot and killed a mentally-disturbed, homeless man at the city''s 30th Street train station. Noting this second act of publicized overreaction in less than two weeks, Moffitt remarked, "It''s important that we learn the lessons of the Chicago Convention debacle of 1968. We cannot sacrifice free speech and assembly of the citizens to the cosmetics that accompany national conventions, be it Philadelphia or L.A. We can''t allow cities to simply clean the streets of those considered to be undesirable, through intimidation or officially-sanctioned abuse."

Noting the irony that the Republican Convention is to be held in the “City of Brotherly Love” in less than two weeks, and the Democratic Convention follows in Los Angeles two weeks later, Moffitt urged that the Republican and Democratic leadership address the matter head-on and fully attempt to bring about change in how big-city police conduct themselves. “This issue is of utmost importance to the country. Neither Vice President Gore nor Governor Bush can afford to ignore it. They should use the convention platforms in Philadelphia and Los Angeles to decry police abuse such as this, and firmly commit their parties to reforming the training and attitudes underlying it.”

"We can only hope that this incident will spur the American public, and the nation’s leadership, to demand improvements in how police are expected and required to deal with all situations." 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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