ZERO TOLERANCE policing, so admired by New Labour's Jack Straw, equals murder, brutality and injustice. Four white New York cops last week got away with the murder of an unarmed black man, Amadou Diallo. The cops were acquitted despite pounding 41 shots at Diallo, who carried nothing more threatening than a wallet. Jack Straw wants the British police to be more like their New York counterparts. He admires New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani's zero tolerance policing. Zero tolerance was supposed to cut crime and make people feel safe by cracking down on every type of misdemeanour, however minor.
In reality it gave the police the go-ahead to wage terror on the most deprived people in New York. Armed Street Crimes Units, like the one which killed Amadou Diallo, roamed the street harassing, persecuting and jailing blacks, Hispanics, the poor and the homeless.
Amnesty International accused the New York police of "ill treatment, deaths in custody and unjustified shootings". When Labour was in opposition Jack Straw made several "fact finding" visits to the US, praising zero tolerance. On one such visit in 1995 a police officer told Straw, "Listen, Mac, the only way I know how to police this community is by harassing them. We're the oppressors. It's the only thing these fuckers understand." Just five months ago Harry Stanley was gunned down by police in London's Hackney. In an echo of the US case, police claimed they thought the table leg Harry was carrying was a gun. Straw's zero tolerance increases the prospect of more such killings.