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"Musings": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1991 (year approximate) to 1992 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On law enforcement's obligation to protect and serve and Rodney King.

Digital ID



man000983. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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OCR transcription





Let's get this straight right off the bat; the people who beat Rodney Glen King were not policemen. They were hoodlums masquerading in police uniforms. Such people as those can be found around the country on every police force in every town no matter the size.
Over the past few weeks, with the recurring images of the beating of King appearing on both the television and in my mind, I have contemplated on the question of just what a police officer and a police force is. I have done this because there was a time when I wanted to become a policeman but at that time and in the place where I lived, blacks were not allowed to put on such a uniform unless it was to simply serve as security officers in black communities. Back in those days, black officers could not arrest a white suspect.
My reflections on the question has led me through several texts and references. Overall, they all seem to offer similar definitions. A police force is defined as "a body of trained officers entrusted by a government with maintenance of public peace and order, enforcement of laws and prevention and detection of crime." To be entrusted with upholding the law, especially in a democratic society, ought to be one of the most revered professions one could choose as a way of life. "To protect and serve" ranks right up there with "duty, honor, country." Most of those who enter that profession do so with the right reasons in mind. There are those, however, who join for reasons bordering on perversity. They view the uniform and the badge as licenses to abuse. Hiding behind the colors and the gold, seemingly a certain percentage among all departments set about to oppress the populace.
The Rodney King incident has brought into clear focus what black people have been saying for years about their relationship with certain elements of police departments. The same is true of Hispanic men and almost to the same
degree especially in those communities where there are sizeable Hispanic communities. But let's not stop there. Such abuses are to be found with others; Indians, women, Asians, longhairs, homosexuals, perceived liberals, and, yes, just regular white men. Remember the movie "Macon County Line"? The abuse is everywhere. There are just some who feel safer than others but we are all at risk when it comes to a law enforcement officer who has made the badge a license to suppress, harrass, beat and even kill.
If we look closely we will undoubtedly find many similarities within most, if not all, groups. In-group members are rarely willing to acknowledge the negative elements within the group. Those same negative elements among out-groups are not only quickly recognized but are also quickly condemned. It appears that when we do consider such factors we are indeed outward looking.
Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond character, describes a phenomenon which most would just as soon choose not to think about. The scene is somewhere in the Pocono's at the end of the season. A lodge is making final preparations for closing and a young female employee has been left there alone to finish up. Gangsters appear on the scene, take her captive and threaten her. She is in fear of her life and hopes someone, anyone will come and rescue her. To make matters even worse, the weather turns foul with dark clouds, thunder and lightening and wind. There's a knock at the door. The leader of the gangsters says to her; "Whoever it is, get rid of them." She was determined to let whoever it was know that she was in danger. She opened the door and there stood James Bond. She was terrified. She was certain that he was another of the gang members. He had that same cold, cruel look about him. As we all know, Bond is on the side of the angels. Flemings explained the cause of the young woman's distress. In short, he
said that the only difference between Bond and the gangsters was who they
worked for. Killing is how they all make a living. We have to know that those who are on the side of the angels will only beat or kill only as necessary in enforcing the laws and protecting the people and we ARE the PEOPLE.
Where to begin. Leadership seems as good a place as any. Every group’s behavior is defined by its leadership. The leader establishes the philosophy by which the group lives and must abide. When it is established by the leader that certain behavior is acceptable and other is not, then there is no doubt as to what is tolerated and what is not. Organized society, in many ways, especially in regards to such matters as these, is little more than a magnification of the microscopic world which is the protoplasm of life.
Without going into the labratory and relying on your recall of ninth grade science, I think that if we are to be as one when it comes to the dispensation of justice, we need only look at the process of mitosis. As I recall, the process goes through stages and the process is all about the splitting of a single cell. The fact that it is split lets us know that what the second cell takes with it is the same as that from which it separated. From prophase to metaphase to anaphase to telophase the same characteristics are transmuted.
The number one leader in the country has commented on what happened to Rodney King. He said it "was sickening." If you saw the president's face when he made the comment I am sure you will agree that real concern was etched thereon. He undid his comment by also saying that Chief Gates has done an "exemplary job." Well of course we know that the chief was not present at the beating. Of course we know that the chief said it was "revolting." Of course, even more so, the chief sets the tone for the force. I do not claim to have heard everything but I have not heard him say that that kind of behavior will not be tolerated and anybody who is guilty of it will be summarily
Nothing is easily attained. Still, if I ran a business I would make the rules and enforce them. I would not have anybody working for me who spends part of their time making me or my business look bad. I would have them understand that if they were not contributing to the betterment of the business then they would have to butt out. Jobs are not easy to come by. No, I'm not talking about being a little dictator or suppressing creativity or any of those things which are not destructive. But when it comes to business, pure and simple, if it were my parents, my wife or children, my brothers or sisters, if they didn't take care of business I would not let them put me out of business. Sure, they could remain my relatives but they definitely would not remain on the payroll.
Gates and any other police chief who tolerates misprision among the officers of the police force, is guilty of peccantancy of office simply by tolerating such behavior.