Letter: Racism is the real issue in LA law

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PHIL REEVES'S article on Rodney King ('An icon, anxious and shy', 21 February) concentrates on the trivial and ignores the significant. The inquiry into the Los Angeles beating by the Christopher Commission published 693 messages passed between police officers on their Mobile Digital Terminals (MDTs). They fell into two categories. Those relating to the Rodney King incident ('Oops, I haven't beaten anyone this bad in a long time'), and other messages ('We're hunting niggers tonight'). Mayor Tom Bradley commented after the release of the MDTs: 'The public must know how deep these prejudicial sentiments run in the LAPD. It is no longer possible for any objective person to regard the King beating as an 'aberration'.'

After a year-long investigation, Amnesty International concluded that 'there have been a disturbing number of cases in recent years in which law enforcement officials in Los Angeles have resorted to excessive force, sometimes amounting to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.' These are the important issues which the British press consistently ignores. Whatever its result, the second trial of four lowly officers is irrelevant to the real challenge of rooting out racism, lawlessness and violence in the Los Angeles police.

Milan Rai

London N8