February 26, 2000

Sigh of Relief Among Officers

By Dan Morrison and Sean Gardiner Staff Writers

JOHN LOUD was driving to the police Emerald Society's dinner dance in Great Neck when his beeper went off with a taut message about the verdict in the Amadou Diallo murder trial.

"When I read it, 'not guilty,' initially I felt jubilation, elation, just for a second," said Loud, who is first vice president of the 28,000-member Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and who has walked beats in the South Bronx' "Fort Apache" neighborhood and in Manhattan's silk stocking district. "Then I thought of Diallo's mother and the elation was tinged with sadness. This is not a victory. There is no champagne."

AP Photo NYPD officer Kenneth Boss, center, reacts to the verdict as his lawyers, Steven Brounstein (left) and Ben Herzweig (right) comfort him.      

Police officers across the city heaved sighs of relief Friday night as the news spread that an Albany jury had found Officers Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss, Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy not guilty in the Feb. 4, 1999, Bronx slaying.

From the top leaders of the police union to the police officers in the Queens precinct houses, several officers interviewed after the verdict echoed the statements of the four accused officers: Diallo's death was a tragedy, they said, not a crime.

But not all joined in that belief.

"The form of policing in New York City is like a runaway train and it's out of control," said Lt. Eric Adams, president of the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. "It's a tale of two cities. In one part of this city there's celebration in the streets, and in another part of this city there's people who are saying 'How long before justice will be served?'"

Several officers said it was impossible for the public to understand a police officer's perspective. "The trial was about mindset," said an African-American detective who asked not to be named. "And different people are going to have different opinions about that."

Another veteran Queens African-American police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "How are you going to convict these guys of anything? I don't think these guys woke up thinking, 'We're going to kill a black man.' "

Like Adams and several other officers, the veteran Queens cop was more critical of the Street Crime Unit's aggressive tactics than of the actions of the four officers.

Despite the blanket acquittals, Loud said, the four officers will never be the same. "Their lives are ruined forever," he said.