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"Letters": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1990 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On Las Vegas Metro Police use of deadly force with Charles Bush and other persons of color.

Digital ID



man000974. 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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Things are happening so rapidly it is difficult to keep up with them. Even though this column is not intended to be a news column it is, from time to time used as a means of reacting to news items. I do not set myself up as a journalist but only as an observer of events who might have a skewed perception of those events. Recently there have been many.
On September 2, in the Sun section of the Sunday newspaper, there was a letter to the editor that I found most interesting. It was headlined: "Gangs, not police, are city's enemies." Right off the bat it suggests that the city has only one enemy/problem. Florence Petris, the writer, goes on to say; "Charles Bush's death was an accident. An unfortunate accident, but not murder, as some lunatic fringes are trying to make it." Good thing it wasn't her son or hubband or boyfriend, huh? I would be interested in knowing how she knows with such certainty that it was not a murder.
The second half of the letter is really confusing. She writes of the first day of school shooting that took place at Eldorado High School: "How is it then that some black leaders can muster up a rally against the police (who in all probability have saved some of your lives and property), but there are no rallies against the gangs and their wanton killings and rampant growth?" The fact is, there is no similarity between the two. Perhaps she is new in town and relies only on major media sources for information. There have been many rallies and marches against gangs and drugs in the black community. There have been no such rallies elsewhere. The only community which seems interested in these issues is the black community. Other areas and groups seem to take the stance that since it has little to do with them they are not concerned. Before anyone gets excited, I know that there are exceptions to that. There are some non-blacks who are sincerely interested and involved. Their numbers, nonetheless, are small and media rarely show them when it does show anything at all having to do with the problem.
Finally she asks; "Where are Jesse Jackson and Benjamin Hooks now? They are not around, are they? But the police are, aren't they?" She attempts to make it appear that when Metro does it job that someone owes it. It is Metro's job to protect and to serve and by so doing it does not then give them the right to violate that which they have been sworn to uphold from time to time. It is when they violate their responsibilities that community people, including Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mr. Benjamin Hooks must intercede. The task of the police is to protect the citizen from the criminals. Who protects the citizen, on those occasions when necessary, from the police? We must protect ourselves by bringing the wrongdoing to the attention of the larger public and this is done through community action.
The larger media would have the public believe that when something like the Charles Bush affair takes place and we articulate our disgust that we seek to vent our anger on the entire Metropolitan Police Department. We do not. We fully understand what group guilt means and its destructive nature. We have never done that. Lieutenant C. Coleman of the Metropolitan Police Department, in a letter to the editor dated August 28, reminds us of Rev. Jesse Scotts observation. He wrote that "The Rev. Jessie (sic) Scott of the NAACP recently said that he has no problem with 98 percent of Metro's officers, since they are good, decent professionals." Clearly this is not an indictment of the entire department but only 2%. Not bad. This is a far cry from the inferences that we might think that the entire department is filled with murder^or abusive policemen.
If Lt. Coleman had stopped there, his letter would have been right on the mark. He did not however. He went on to say; "I would say it's more like 99.9 percent." People like to toss around that 99.9/99.44%. It sounds impressive. The fact of the matter is it is unrealistic. With the Lt.'s estimation, out
of every 100 officers 1/1Oth of one is not a good, decent professional. To
arrive at one full person would require 1000 officers. To arrive at three would require 3000 officers. In short, . for every cop who is somehow
unstable or who manifest behaviors unbecoming an officer of the law, there needs to be 1000. Clearly Rev. Scott's figure is more realistic.
Michelle E. Spinosa's letter of September 2 in the RJ could've been paraphrased from Petris'. Her's is titled; "Metro incident a shame." She tosses Bush's death off by saying "Charles Bush happened to be among the small percentage of people who will die if any pressure is applied to their carotid arteries. There were no other bruises or wounds on him." Even I know and knew that that stranglehold is more often deadly to blacks than not. Metro officers also know that. If it is known and it is applied, what might be inferred? She is further concerned that "the NAACP can sway our sheriff so. It seems as though Sheriff John Moran is allowing a small group of people, that has no knowledge of running a police department, to make decision on police policy. Moran has been in law enforcement for many years. He knows well the conflicts and problems that a police officer encounters every day on the job." J. Edgar Hoover was in law enforcement for a long time. Look at how much he learned. Longevity only means longevity. Sheriff Moran seems to know far more about law enforcement than did Hoover. Hoover not only knew of the abuse of power he created most of it. Sheriff Moran, for whatever reasons, recognizes that something is wrong and is pushing for a full investigation. Spinosa ends her letter by saying: "Just remember the time you needed and relied upon a cop. Remember the crimes they've prevented, the strained motorists they helped, the children they've saved. When you're in trouble, you're sure glad to see that Metro officer." She'd better believe I'm glad to see a Metro officer when I'm in trouble. I'm glad to see them even when I'm not in trouble. Often, their presence prevents trouble from occur!ng. She'll get no disagreement on that matter from me. Actually, the majority
of my personal experiences with Metro has been on the up and up. The thing that Spinosa wants to remember or learn, as the case may be, we do not want
the presence of officers to be the cause of our endangerment.
Crime is on the upswing nationwide. No one is immune from it. There is no place to go which is totally crime free. It is difficult enough having
to contend with crime. That problem should not be compounded for some of us
by having to fret about police harrassment and worse