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A Matter of Law

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Law is simply politics by other means&
- David Kairys, Legal Reasoning

When one looks at public projections of police in the corporate and entertainment media, one thinks of someone who is sworn to follow (as opposed to breaking) the law. Similarly, when one examines the public projections of criminals in the corporate and entertainment media, the reverse image is received: to be one who breaks the law, is to be seen as a base, low individual.

But as many of us have learned over the years, images are not reality; and public media projections often bear little resemblance to the truth.

Consider the case of two Pennsylvania State Troopers (Rodney Smith and Robert Johnson) both of whom were charged with committing crimes, and subsequently dismissed from the force. Once they were formally dismissed, they promptly filed grievances to an arbitrator, had their dismissals reversed and were reinstated. Now understand: one of these cops took his state issued pistol and stuck it in the mouth of Tammy Mathis, an ex-girlfriend, and threatened to kill her. Continuing to drink, he drove away, was soon arrested, and was charged with driving under the influence, simple assault and making terroristic threats. Johnson was caught stealing $27.58 worth of merchandise from the Clover Department Store.

Citing a state statute called Act 111, the Pennsylvania supreme court accepted an allocatur appeal from the state to determine whether the arbitrators award would stand.

In a set of divided opinions known as Pennsylvania State Police v. Pennsylvania State Troopers Association (Smith), the court determined that their authority was limited on review. Under what they termed narrow scope, a majority of the justices decided that the legislature dictated a restraint on judicial activity in the area of grievances and arbitrations from police appeals, and that Act 111, [forbade] appeals from an arbitration award. In the name of avoiding prolonged periods of litigation, and supporting equality between labor and management, the court upheld the arbitrators awards, and ruled that the two state troopers charged in criminal conduct were entitled to their jobs, although in accordance to the arbitrators terms, they couldnt get back pay. Cases such as this reveal not just the limits of judicial power, but how powerful police really are. Men who have committed felonies are stopping, citing, and arresting people for traffic violations and other offenses. How can this be justified? The law justifies it. Or, as the saying goes, the law is what judges say the law is.

When a so-called citizen crosses the barriers imposed by the law, that person loses his job and his freedom. When a cop violated that selfsame law, he keeps his job and his freedom! When cases such as this arise, how can the incarceration of countless youth, men and women in American prison and jails be justified?

It cant be.

For those who serve the system, crimes are just minor inconveniences. For those who dont, crimes are invitations to hell. Thus we learn the true nature of American justice.

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