The Louima Case: Will It Harm Rudy Giuliani?

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New York City is famous for many things: the rudeness of its people, the superiority of its bagels — and, now, for the aggressive behavior of its police. The latter image was reinforced Monday when, following on the heels of the acquittal of four cops in the shooting death of African salesman Amadou Diallo, a jury found three policemen guilty of conspiring to conceal one cop's part in the torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. The verdict also focused increased attention on New York mayor (and probable U.S. Senate candidate) Rudy Giuliani, who, while he has strongly condemned the officers involved in the Louima case, has continued to stand behind the city's police department and its get-tough law enforcement methods.

But while most observers seem to agree that the NYPD's troubles are politically inconvenient for Giuliani, analysts are at odds over the effect of the most recent verdict on the mayor's impending campaign. Are the guilty verdicts in the Louima case an indication that justice for all is a reality in Giuliani's New York, or does it only serve to highlight another act of police violence that is encouraged in some way by Giuliani's take-no-prisoners stance? Opinion hinges, apparently, on whether the focus is on the crime or on the decision of the jury. "The Louima case is symptomatic of what's going on in this police department," says TIME New York correspondent Elaine Rivera. "The cops feel they can go to extremes." Columnist Jack White agrees, saying, "The facts of this trial compound the tensions between Giuliani and his detractors." Within New York City, adds White, the jury's decision will serve only to underscore widespread suspicion of New York police misbehavior and lies. On the other hand, as TIME correspondent William Dowell points out, the Louima verdict could be seen as a vindication of the justice system. "This case supports Giuliani in a way, by showing the community that the justice system can be just as hard on police as on anyone."