cover image Blue vs. Black

Blue vs. Black

Catherine Whitney, John L. Burris, Whitney Burris. St. Martin's Press, $23.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-20392-4

A noted civil rights lawyer, Burris represented Rodney King in the suit against the LAPD that thrust the issue of police brutality into America's consciousness. With the able assistance of Whitney, he debunks the myth that the clash between cops and African-Americans is largely confined to the inner city, pointing to examples and statistics that indicate widespread abuse throughout the country. Careful to avoid listing ""a catalog of horrors,"" Burris calmly spells out the details of several headline-grabbing incidents of police violence, such as the 1997 broomstick rape of a Haitian immigrant in a New York City police station and the 1991 savage beating by cops of the late rapper Tupac Shakur for jaywalking in Oakland, Calif. A series of lesser known situations involving average citizens sadly underscores the seriousness of police misconduct, including an incident in which a black father rushing his injured daughter to the hospital was stopped by police and assailed with stun guns before any questions were asked. Burris notes the high cost to taxpayers nationally for these violent outbursts, calling for a more effective review process to weed out rogue cops, extended investigative powers for Internal Affairs Departments that are independent of precincts and greater cooperation with those filing citizen's complaints. Though many of Burris's recommendations aren't revolutionary, this sane, practical book provides a promising call to action in the ongoing debate about this persistent societal blight. (Oct.)