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Commission's Police Report

May 16, 1999

The Times asserts that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights "dropped a bombshell" on Los Angeles law enforcement with its recently published report on police community relations (editorial, May 6). In fact, it is a nuanced, balanced report that contains considerable praise, some criticism and quite a number of constructive recommendations for local law enforcement agencies--as fair-minded readers can discover for themselves by consulting our Web page at http://www.usccr.gov.

The Times chose to emphasize the commission's recommendation that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate police misconduct. This was only one, albeit important, recommendation. We wish, however, that The Times had explained to its readers the reasoning behind the proposal.

At the hearings the commission held in Los Angeles, there was repeated and credible testimony that having the district attorney investigate police creates the appearance of a conflict of interest because the two offices work together on a daily basis and are mutually dependent. The appearance of an inherent conflict, and not necessarily any specific instance of wrongdoing, in itself heightens the suspicions that have caused such anguish in minority communities. Los Angeles civil rights attorneys and plaintiffs' counsels have endorsed our proposal. We believe it would help law enforcement more effectively do its job, by dispelling the distrust that continues to plague relations between police and minority communities.

The Times also complains that several of the report's recommendations have already been implemented. Indeed they have. We would like to think that our hearings helped propel these issues to the forefront of public concern.

MARY FRANCES BERRY, Chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Washington

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