Cop Talk

To the Editor,

Emil Franzi was his usual perceptive self in his critique of the Fourth Avenue riot critique ("Mob Squad," August 2). Let me propose a perceptual framework that makes the police actions more understandable.

The police were essentially using the crowd on Fourth Avenue as unpaid extras in a training exercise. As a result of the "riots" exemplified by the Seattle demonstrations opposing the WTO and GATT, police agencies have developed new training regimens that are the latest versions of Operation Garden Plot and Cable Splicer of the Vietnam War era. Commonly the police train for potential riots by going to a military base and using servicemen or police recruits as "demonstrators." That, of course, is much less satisfactory than using real citizens and real rioters.

Seen in that light, it is understandable why the police pulled back and let the riot get out of control. They wanted it to happen, because it provided a more realistic scenario for their exercise. The larger area in the police control zone matches the "martial law zone" declared by the mayor in the early 1970s during police-incited riots near the University of Arizona. The targeting of media representatives was not "accidental." It closely matches their training to keep the media away and to control the information. The snipers on the roof had nothing to do with that riot. They were practicing for another riot.

I mention my thesis for the connoisseur who may be confused by what would otherwise appear to be unexplained stupidity by our police.

--Bill Risner

To the Editor,

After reading the Fourth Avenue Riot Panel report I was struck with its lack of preventative recommendations. My initial recommendation would have been to send the senior city leadership to the Civil Disturbance Orientation Course (SEADOC). Unfortunately, this federally funded course saw its heyday in the '60s and '70s.

A confrontation management technique that would have been appropriate on Fourth Avenue is the use of two-man saturation patrols throughout the crowds before the disturbance could occur. The patrols establish friendly contact and co-opt the marginal participants while stripping anonymity from all they come in contact with. The result is that individuals in the crowd are less likely to get involved in unlawful activity after they had been ID'd.

An example of this technique occurred at a two-week German American BeerFest that took place annually around the Fourth of July. It had historically been marred with GIs getting in fights, vandalism and mayhem. The military police tactic had been to keep a low profile and react after the violence broke out. After we instituted preventive saturation patrolling, we found that establishing rapport and nipping potential incidents in the bud had the result of defusing the violence of the past. Although we had cameras available for positive ID, we never had to use them because the yearly carnage had ended.

--James P. Needham
Ex-instructor, Civil Disturbance Orientation Course

Dumb Diagnosis

To the Editor,

I expect better of the Tucson Weekly than the dumb writing of Tom Danehy in "Flower Power" (July 26). Yes, there are problems of quality with dietary supplements and herbal remedies, and I have long advocated increased regulation of those products and the industries that sell them. But as someone who has made a career of the study and use of medicinal plants, I tell you with certainty that the risks of harm from them are a tiny fraction of the risks from pharmaceutical drugs, simply because in the natural forms, the concentrations of active principles are low. In other words, herbs are dilute forms of drugs, and risk of harm correlates with concentration.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has attributed 100,000 deaths a year in this country to direct toxicity of pharmaceuticals, and that is just in hospitalized patients. Very small numbers of cases of serious harm result from botanicals, and those are usually due to mistakes, such as a toxic plant being mislabeled and sold as a useful one. By contrast, the pharmaceutical disasters result from correct prescribing: the right drug in the right dose to the right patient.

By the way, the product testing reported in the "ambush" of me on 60 Minutes was in error, and 60 Minutes had been so informed by the manufacturers, who provided test results from independent labs in advance of the airing of the show. 60 Minutes chose to ignore that factual information in favor of a racier story, just as Danehy did throughout his story.

--Andrew Weil, M.D.


The Tucson Weekly incorrectly reported the birthdate of Democrat Jesse Lugo, who is running against Ward 5 candidate Steve Leal ("Southside Smackdown," August 23). Lugo was born on December 18, 1953.