- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2000

Readers ponder the Moran incident

I am writing in response to Adrienne T. Washington's column "Adults are behaving childishly in Moran vs. boy fracas" (Metropolitan, April 14).

As the campaign spokeswoman for the Demaris Miller for Congress 2000 campaign, we couldn't agree more with Ms. Washington's point of view. But since Mrs. Miller will be the eventual Republican challenger to Rep. James P. Moran this fall, we think it is important to clarify for your readers the most troubling aspects of this situation involving the Virginia Democrat and the accusations against the boy.

First, we find it tragic that an 8-year-old boy's life has spilled over into the national news media as a result of Mr. Moran's overreaction to this situation. Second, Mr. Moran was quoted in a local Alexandria newspaper as saying, "Thanks to the [National Rifle Association] I couldn't be sure if [the boy] had a gun or not." I think the latter statement tells us a lot about what truly motivated Mr. Moran to run to Katie Couric on the "Today" show before an investigation of the facts was complete.

The boy, from all accounts, is a good boy with straight A's, an "honor student." He is a child who tells the truth and does not get in trouble in school. By contrast, Mr. Moran has had quite a few problems controlling himself in and out of public.

More on point, Mr. Moran has had physical run-ins with other people where the stories "conflict." It has happened with his wife, Mary, who says that he "manhandled" her as she called 911. He fought with a congressional colleague on the House floor and cloakroom, requiring Capitol police officers to restore order, and he grabbed a man by his shirt for handing out anti-Moran campaign fliers in 1994. Mr. Moran also had to resign as vice mayor of Alexandria in 1985 over charges that he misused his office. He was then placed on official probation. The 8-year-old would-be "carjacker" has never been in trouble.

Simply put, we question, after this latest incident, Mr. Moran's fitness for public office. Period.

The sad thing is that the boy's life already has been scarred by this accusation no matter what the ultimate outcome in court.

He, by all accounts, is a black child with an intact family. He is full of promise. What will happen now? How will his teachers and friends view him after this? Will he be just another "thug," another candidate for prison in years to come? We don't need another young black male in the criminal justice system.

The only issue for Mrs. Miller, who has devoted herself to tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged black youth in the District for years, is this:

If this child had been in a better neighborhood, was not black and said to the congressman that he liked his car, would Mr. Moran have choked the child, carried him off yelling obscenities and then ran to the national media to tell his story of alleged terror by this 8-year-old with an "icy stare" and possible gun in his pocket? We think not.

Mr. Moran says that he "wanted to hug him" or "adopt" him. If that is true, why then did the congressman try to make national headlines at the boy's expense?

Moreover, if Mr. Moran is telling the truth and the child did attempt to carjack him, then Mr. Moran should press charges and hold the boy accountable for his conduct. Why would he do otherwise?

If the child is a threat to adults with automobiles, then the congressman should make sure he threatens no other child's parents. We just think that, based on Mr. Moran's past behavior, the boy deserves the benefit of the doubt.

SOPHIA A. NELSON

Spokeswoman

Demaris Miller for Congress 2000

McLean

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In the world that I grew up in, I would tend to agree with Adrienne T. Washington that Rep. James P. Moran overreacted to the 8-year-old's actions.

In today's world, sadly, 8-year-old children not only have access to guns, they can and do use them to shoot other human beings. I don't know who is telling the truth, but if Mr. Moran is, his actions were if anything first foolhardy and second restrained.

Law enforcement personnel will tell you that when confronted by an individual with a gun you should give up rather than risk your life, but if you foolishly decide to use physical force it should be sudden and decisive in an attempt to incapacitate the person holding the gun before it can be fired. Even then, your chances of avoiding injury or death are not 100 percent.

This means that if Mr. Moran really believed that the boy had a gun and was determined to use it, he had the following logical options: Give up his car keys and hope the boy wouldn't shoot, call the boy's bluff and hope he wouldn't shoot or attempt to disarm the boy before he could shoot.

I don't believe that anyone, including Ms. Washington, the boy's parents or Mr. Moran, could predict with certainty how they would react in such a situation.

Mr. Moran chose the third option, but it appears his actions to disarm might have been ineffective if the boy really had a gun. Adults still have a right to self-protection, even if the threat is from a child.

In today's world, children of all races do kill, including for trivial reasons.

I disagree with Ms. Washington: It does matter who is telling the truth; it does matter if a threat to use a gun was stated; it does matter if Mr. Moran struck without sufficient provocation.

Again, I don't know who is telling the truth, but I do know from personal experience that being a "strict disciplinarian" does not ensure that a child will not behave badly or lie about it later.

ROBERT A. WOLPERT

Fairfax

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Now that the story is coming out about Rep. James P. Moran and the 8-year-old, are we going to hear from the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, et al. that one of their own (a Democrat) is guilty of racial profiling?

It is a good thing Michael Green, an 8-year-old black child, didn't pull out the gun, a toy baby bottle full of candy. Who could believe an 8-year-old would be a carjacker? Where are those up in arms about the New York City police defending the streets at night time, but not a word about Democrats cursing, grabbing and dragging children by the neck in broad daylight, and then threatening to sue?

MILDRED M. FISCHER

Fredericksburg, Va.

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Let me get this straight. My representative, James P. Moran, goes on the "Today" show to tell the world that an 85-pound child with an "icy stare" tried to carjack him. But, then the child's family says that Mr. Moran choked the child because he liked Mr. Moran's car.

With the reputation of our politicians as truth tellers (and Mr. Moran's reputation as a bully), my money is on the child's story.

Why would my congressman hide behind Katie Couric and tell his story on national television unless he wants his story out to a national audience first? Hmmmm.

It takes a village to raise a child, but don't hug them too tightly, or around the neck.

MARK GULL

Arlington

Times columnist too cynical about law enforcement

I didn't realize that Fred Reed had become so cynical after such a long and distinguished career ("Simple advice for police: Just stay politically correct," Police Beat, Metropolitan, April 10).

I am a professor of criminal justice studies at a college in Maryland. After working in law enforcement for more than 20 years and becoming a teacher to students, many of whom plan to have careers in law enforcement, I hope the criminal justice students either don't read or don't take Mr. Reed's column seriously.

It's OK to stay "politically correct" since the police, as Mr. Reed stated, are indeed "under the guns of political correctness." But the critical point I want to drive home is that police officers are being paid to perform their job in an effective, efficient, judicial and compassionate manner. Anything short of this is unacceptable.

Reading Mr. Reed's column leads one to believe that a law enforcement officer should not take reasonable and proper police action. For example, Mr. Reed refers to open-air drug markets and says "cops can detect them at a hundred yards. So can I. But why risk a promotion? Just say you didn't see anything."

Again, I believe cynicism is permissible as long as the writer doesn't mislead the young, inexperienced and dedicated law enforcement officers into cynicism and complacency, potentially violating the sworn oath of office, and possibly facing disciplinary action or being fired for failing to perform their duties (if they are in their probationary year).

My simple advice for Mr. Reed is to drop the cynicism and write another column to suggest other ways the police officer can "stay politically correct."

ASHTON E. FLEMMINGS

Silver Spring

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