Rudy's Cop Hype

The Mayor's Claims of Police Restraint Are All Sound Bite, No Substance

Al Sharpton has taken to making a comparison of his own: Giuliani's reaction to the Louima incident in August 1997 and his response to Diallo. Sharpton says the mayor took strong action on Louima because he was running for reelection, and that he's doing nothing about Diallo because he isn't running now.

What Sharpton's missing is that Rudy is in a full-force election mode. The difference in his handling of the two incidents is attributable to what he's running for: statewide office. In 1997, he had to mend a city torn asunder to secure his mayoral mandate. In 1999, he need only play to a statewide white base.

The morning the Louima incident surfaced, Giuliani said the charges "should result in the severest penalties, including substantial terms of imprisonment." One officer was immediately arrested by Internal Affairs, and the mayor, on one of two hospital visits to Louima, promised to "make examples" of the officers who committed these "reprehensible" crimes.

Safir and the mayor took instant action at the Brooklyn precinct, dumping everyone from the commander on down. Both went public, pleading that cops break the blue wall of silence. "He's had his best 48 hours as mayor," said Norman Siegel, the civil libertarian who is Giuliani's harshest brutality critic.

Since Diallo's death, however, Rudy has merely been a defensive number cruncher. He actually corrected a Guinean diplomat who quoted him as calling the killing a "mistake." Sympathy for a "tragedy" is all he can muster, as if he were a mere observer. He's counting on news events rather than his own actions to get him out of the crosshairs. He is, after all, maneuvering for the Senate ballot line of the singlemindedly procop Conservative Party, just as he is positioning himself for the GOP line without a primary.

Giuliani is not so much the mayor anymore as he is a candidate, and this damaged town will have to settle for whatever he thinks flies politically, rather than what we need socially.

Research: Coco McPherson, Soo-Min Oh, Ron Zapata

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