Law-enforcement authorities across the country, including Baltimore, should take the Rodney King case, and its aftermath, as a deadly warning.
The acquittal of the four white policemen charged with beating Mr. King, a black motorist, does not mean police officers now have open season to use excessive force to subdue citizens they are trying to apprehend. On the contrary, this tragedy, recorded for all time on videotape, must be seen as a textbook example of what not to do.
If police departments are not chastened, they should be. What happened to Mr. King should not happen to any citizen. That it did reduces public respect for the police function at a time when society is becoming increasingly subject to violence and needs protection. That the victim was an African American should force communities everywhere to honestly examine minority grievances and discrepancies in the treatment of non-white suspects.