THAT EMOTIONS HAVE run high in reaction to the verdicts in the Terrence Johnson trial is understandable. From the outset, this was an explosive case, destined for an unsatisfactory resolution. No decision could have undone the damage or eliminated the tensions that arose over the slayings of Prince George's County officers Albert M. Claggett IV and James Brian Swart. As County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan noted yesterday, the trial was an ordeal for the people and public servants of Prince George's. But if the verdicts amount to a maddening compromise, they in no way should be construed as a license for any group to strike out in revenge.
Still, the decision must be deeply troubling to every officer on the county police force. For one thing, many citizens will interpret the verdicts as a jury's vote of no confidence in the police; beyond that, the trial and the verdict underscore the dangers these officers constantly face in carrying out their duty to protect all citizens against crime. However difficult it may be to rise above their feelings about this case, the members of the force should concentrate now on working with their chief and all citizens of the county to build a better atmosphere for law enforcement.
But the burden does not fall only on the police. Any improvement of police-community relations also will entail new efforts on the part of citizens to refrain from unfair, inflammatory blanket indictments of their police force. With sympathy for all aggrieved families in this tradegy, the people and public servants of Prince George's County should now continue the difficult task of creating a stronger sense of community.