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Teenagers dead because of police "policy"

January 16, 2004 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,
Seven teenagers, all between the ages of 13 and 18, died in a car crash early in the morning December 29 in Troutman, N.C. The driver of the vehicle, 15-year-old John Lindsey Myers Jr., reportedly had stolen a vehicle, which prompted Troutman police to pursue the car in a high-speed chase.

At the height of the chase, Officer Keith Bills was pursuing the teens at 100 miles per hour. Family members and friends of those killed in the crash question whether it was necessary for the police to chase the vehicle. It would have sufficed to take down a tag number and stop following.

Troutman police, of course, said that the officer in question was just following department policy. Since the crash, many other North Carolina police departments have come out and said that Bills was not out of line in any way.

He remains on active duty and has not been disciplined. Local news reports painted the deceased teenagers as "troublemakers," stating that some of the occupants of the car had been suspected of crimes such as house burglary. Demonizing the teenagers in the media has made it look like the deceased were simply "asking for it," which has served to strengthen the cops' case--that the officer was just "doing his job."

The question to ask is: Was the officer chasing the teenagers out of line? Was he just being a "hot rod" cop? Or is it the department policy reflecting the role of the police in this system that is to blame for the slaughter of seven young people?

The police were simply fulfilling their duty as a repressive and absurd instrument of the ruling class in this country when they made the decision to chase a car full of kids to their death.

We need to decrease the number of police roaming the streets of our neighborhoods and keep their activity in check. But more than that, there will have to be a fundamental change in our society to ensure that these kinds of tragedies are not acceptable because of "departmental policy."

Julie Southerland, Greensboro, N.C.

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