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When cops, not just white ones, kill

Shootings by black officers in Chicago shift the racism debate.

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It is perhaps the most explosive racial issue in America today: White police officers shooting and killing minority residents. In New York it was African immigrant Amadou Diallo. In California it was Tyisha Miller, a black woman in a parked car.

Well, in Chicago, police recently killed two unarmed black motorists in separate incidents. But here there's a twist: Both of the officers who reportedly fired the shots are black. One is a woman.

It's a difference some observers say gives credence to the idea that police brutality isn't caused so much by the simmering racism of individual cops. Rather, the overzealous, militaristic culture of some police departments is partly to blame, too.

More than dismissing a few bad-apple cops, these experts say, the solution lies in altering the fear and ethos of machismo in the nation's police barracks.

Furthermore, the Chicago cases raise questions about whether diversity in police ranks can help dissolve mistrust between civilians and cops. Some argue that racism is hardly confined to white cops. They say racial sentiments provoke black-on-black confrontations as well.

"If you're training cops to think they're in a war - including a drug war - you're going to get atrocities like this," says Joseph McNamara, a former police chief of San Jose, Calif., who's now a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

And, he says, "There are too many of these cases nationally to write them off to a few misjudgments."

In the Chicago case, Robert Russ, a black Northwestern University football player, was killed, police say, when he tried to grab a gun that an African-American officer pointed inside his car after an early-morning chase.


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