`Zero tolerance' can sour ties between people and...


October 13, 1999

`Zero tolerance' can sour ties between people and police

Since Martin O'Malley won the Democratic mayoral primary, he has, according to a recent Sun article, made contact with those responsible for developing the "zero tolerance" crime-fighting strategy in New York City ("O'Malley is wooing zero-tolerance gurus," Oct. 2).

The New York Police Department claims this strategy is responsible for the city's dramatic drop in murders (from 2,262 in 1990 to just over 600 last year).

Certainly Baltimoreans would like to see a similar drop in murders here.

But, although backers of this strategy claim that such results can occur without police abuse, an article in the same paper reported that New York paid a record $40 million in the past year -- up 40 percent from the previous year -- to resolve claims and lawsuits against officers charged with brutality ("N.Y. City pays $40 million in police brutality cases," Oct. 2).

The number of police brutality claims in New York City was the highest in a decade.

The fact that Mr. O'Malley, a white man running in a city with an African-American majority, won the Democratic primary, strongly suggests that Baltimoreans are anxious to see crime reduced.

Unless we take careful steps to assure its fair application to all citizens, however, instituting a "zero tolerance" approach in Baltimore could increase the distrust of African-Americans for those who enforce the law and discourage cooperation with the police.

The Rev. John A. Mote, Baltimore

Don't target tutoring to one racial group

I read with interest the article about the "Algebra with Assistance" program spreading through Baltimore County ("Aiming to narrow achievement gap," Oct. 11).

Any special program to help students is laudable. However, any effort to help one minority, over other groups, is noxious and may be illegal.

I have a simple litmus test for preferential treatment programs: Substitute another racial, ethnic or religious group for the targeted minority.

Imagine, for example, "Jewish students get special algebra assistance." Would it be acceptable? Would any other group be upset?

How about, "white students get special SAT prep program"?

Any program that "serves predominantly black students" and "is aimed at narrowing the Baltimore County school system's minority achievement gap" is racist, plain and simple.

Why not think like this: X number of Baltimore County students are unsuccessful in algebra. What can we do for all of these students?

Now that would be an equation for success for all.

David G. O'Neill, Princess Anne

`Jackpot justice' system needs to be reformed

The ruling against State Farm insurance by an Illinois jury should sound a strong call for reform of the way the U.S. judicial system handles class-action litigation ("Forum for State Farm verdict is disputed," Oct 6).

The ruling hands already rich and powerful automakers a monopoly on the after-market parts business.

Because of a class-action system that is severely out of whack, a small group of individuals in Illinois were forced to make a decision that will affect millions of auto insurance consumers across the country through higher insurance premiums.

This case was just the latest example of "jackpot justice."

Class-actions suits threaten the U.S. court system by clogging courtrooms and stretching the limits of the judicial system to the breaking point. Inflated verdicts have undermined the credibility of the system, strangled innovation and hobbled the productivity of the U.S. economy.

The Alliance of American Insurers, a national trade association representing 312 insurers, is drafting legislative initiatives and other procedural changes to discourage lawsuits that do little but enrich lawyers and increase insurance costs.

The initiatives would move suits from state to federal courts, derail baseless class-actions suits, control discovery costs and promote alternative dispute resolution.

These initiatives protect consumers' rights, not lawyers' pocketbooks.

Ann Spragens, Downers Grove, Ill.

The writer is senior vice president and general counsel for the Alliance of American Insurers.

Suit against Orioles bird exemplifies lawsuit abuse

In the talk about the lawsuit filed against the Oriole Bird, no one has mentioned that the plaintiff is asking for outrageous sum. The plaintiff wants $35 million because of a scuffle with a man in a bird suit.

As Orioles owner and personal injury lawyer Peter G. Angelos now finds himself on the defending end of a lawsuit, maybe he'll understand what we are talking about when we say, "stop lawsuit abuse."

Phillip D. Bissett, Baltimore

The writer is chairman of Baltimore Regional Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

Charles Villagers denied their chance to contest CVS

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