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Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
'Brutality' cases sour community relations
Video footage of King and  LAPD police officers
Rodney King: The beating that sparked a riot
The beating of a black man by police in Philadelphia is already inviting comparison with previous high profile cases alleging police brutality.

Television coverage showed the man, Thomas Jones, being beaten and kicked during his arrest by a group of both white and black police officers.

With security concerns already being expressed ahead of the Republican Party convention in the city later this month - targeted by demonstrators for protests against "globalisation" and big business - there are fears it could add to tensions.

The incident was reminiscent of the police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991.

Four white officers were accused, but acquitted of most of the charges - leading to the 1992 riots which saw areas of Los Angeles looted and burned.

Abner Louima in court
Louima: Assaulted by police
Community relations - and the image of the Los Angeles Police Department - are still suffering.

Police in Philadelphia were themselves accused of heavy handiness some years ago.

In 1985, the city's first black mayor, Wilson Goode, sanctioned police action to evict a black separatist organisation called Move from a fortified house.

The police attempted to remove a concrete bunker on the roof with an explosive device dropped from a helicopter.

Killed

The resulting fire killed 11 Move members - five children and six adults - and destroyed more than 60 homes in two city blocks.

Only two Move members survived - and they said police had continued to fire at them as they attempted to leave the burning building.

More recently, it has been New York City's police who have attracted accusations of racism.

In 1997, two officers were charged with assaulting a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, in a police station toilet.

He had a broken broom handle forced into his rectum and was subsequently admitted to hospital for two-and-a-half months.

Justin Volpe, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after admitting the assault while Charles Schwarz, who was convicted of holding Mr Louima down, was jailed for 15 years and eight months.

Conspiracy

Two other white officers were convicted of conspiring to cover up the assault.

In February this year, thousands demonstrated in New York calling for social justice and law enforcement reforms after the acquittal of four white policemen on charges of murdering an unarmed West African man.

Amadou Diallo was hit by 19 out of 41 shots fired by the four policemen as he stood at the entrance of his Bronx apartment.

The officers said they mistook the wallet he had taken from his pocket for a gun.

They insisted they believed they were in danger when, in the dark, Mr Diallo ignored orders to halt for questioning.

Demonstrator in New York
Protests followed the killing of Amadou Diallo
In April, protesters clashed with New York City police during a funeral procession for another unarmed black man killed by officers.

Twenty-three police officers and four civilians were injured in the clashes, and 27 people were arrested on charges that included disorderly conduct and inciting a riot.

The disturbance came after a procession of protesters and mourners several miles long followed a hearse carrying the body of 26-year-old Patrick Dorismond, who was shot dead on 16 March.

Dorismond was shot after an officer conducting a drug sting allegedly asked Dorismond if he would sell him marijuana.

The two scuffled, back-up officers arrived and one officer's gun went off, killing Dorismond.

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See also:

27 Jun 00 | Americas
NYPD officer jailed for brutality
08 Apr 00 | Americas
Clashes erupt at NY funeral
07 May 99 | Americas
Haitian confronts alleged tormentors
04 May 99 | Americas
NYPD on trial for brutality
16 Oct 99 | Americas
US admits torture concerns
26 May 99 | Americas
NYPD officer admits brutality
16 Oct 99 | Americas
US admits torture concerns
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