Blue vs. Black

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9780312203924: Blue vs. Black

Many of us believe that cases of police brutality are isolated events, happening only in large cities and having no bearing on our own lives. But incidents of cop violence against minority citizens have become far too common everywhere in America, and the problem affects us all.

John L. Burris, a nationally renowned civil rights attorney, has spent the past twenty years defending the rights of minorities who have been the victims of police misconduct and excessive use of force. In Blue vs. Black he tells the true, heartbreaking stories of many of them--a young community center director who is savagely beaten by cops before the eyes of the children in his care; a woman who is handcuffed to a chainlink fence by a female officer and humiliated in front of her neighbors, simply because of a minor traffic violation; a father who is pulled over by police officers and shocked with a stun gun while his three-year-old daughter screams in the backseat of the car. These are no criminals, but ordinary, law-abiding citizens. Burris introduces us to several remarkable men and women who, by letting their stories be told in this book, demonstrate their courage in trying to repair the damaged relationships between blacks and law-enforcement officials.

Burris presents with compassion and insight a measured analysis of tensions between police and the people they are meant to protect. In this important and moving work, he offers solutions for ending the cycle of police and civilian distrust.

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Review:

The horrific images of the Rodney King beating by the LAPD and the torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by New York cops are the most blatant reminders of police brutality against blacks in the United States. But as Oakland-based civil rights attorney John L. Burris (who represented King) and co-writer Catherine Whitney remind us in this disturbing book, the problem is more widespread than most white Americans are willing to admit. "Our nation practices a selective blindness," they argue. "In this great and strong nation, we have all become unwitting accomplices to the continuation of the conflict."

Along with alarming statistical data, Burris and Whitney chronicle several nightmarish incidents of law-abiding African Americans at the mercy of police officers, including an Oakland community leader who raised his children to respect the police--and was then beaten senseless in front of their eyes. The authors also examine the closed "blue wall of silence" mentality that pervades police culture, reinforcing an "us against them" point of view. But, offering more than a catalog of well-justified complaints, they present a good 10-point "Blueprint for Police Reform" that includes "a dual training focus of force and communication" to supplement nonviolent procedures, as well as the denial of career advancement to officers who have racked up numerous citizen complaints. "If law enforcement is to abandon the culture that supports misconduct, silence, heavy-handedness, and disrespect," they write, "a new scaffold must be erected to replace the old." --Eugene Holley Jr.

From the Back Cover:

Dear Reader,

The backs of book jackets usually display "blurbs": that is, quotes from important people telling you why a given book is worth your time and money.

I'm not important and you've never heard of me. In the 15 years that I have worked in book publishing, this book is the only one for which I've written my own recommendation.

If you are black, then you probably don't need me to tell you that Blue vs. Black is worth your while. The stories in this book concern average citizens, and could have happened to anyone. Perhaps such stories have happened to you or people that you know.

If you are white--as I am--then the book might be a wake-up call. It's easy to brush off a book like this one, to think that the subject doesn't apply to you, that police brutality hasn't happened to you or to anyone you know. But that's why you should read it: to find out what does happen.

Police brutality can be a divisive issue and it's often discussed in an emotionally-charged and confrontational manner, so that no dialogue is possible and no solutions can be explored. Blue vs. Black presents instances of brutality, and then discusses how those instances might have been avoided. It is not a blanket indictment of cops; indeed, it's deeply respectful of the job that we citizens ask police to perform. It presents a powerful blueprint for change and calls upon all of us to reject polarizing rhetoric and work as one community to solve these problems.

As the book's editor, I hope you'll read it with an open mind.

Sincerely,

George Witte
Senior Editor

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John L. Burris; Catherine Whitney
Published by St. Martin's Press (1999)
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