White House Retreats on Gay Rights

WHETHER or not Tom Potter was the right man to head a new program for putting 100,000 additional police on America's streets, the Clinton administration once again has shown a lack of political courage where gay rights are concerned.

The administration beat a hasty retreat from Clinton's campaign promise to lift all restrictions against gays in the armed forces. Now it develops that Potter is too controversial to head the Justice Department's new Community Oriented Policing Service. The respected former Portland, Ore., police chief has been a leading advocate of community policing and has taken a well-reasoned approach to gay rights, insisting police be judged by their public and professional behavior.

Even worse than Justice's encouraging Potter to withdraw from consideration were ham-handed attempts led by Attorney General Janet Reno to explain away the administration's behavior and invite Potter back for further consideration.

Potter's legacy in Portland is a community policing system that works and a Police Bureau that has made significant strides toward greater tolerance and respect for all. Had Potter gotten the federal job, he might have brought lasting changes elsewhere. We'll never know.

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