Their job is often thankless, but police and the FBI did a commendable job solving the case of a Bucks County mother and daughter "abducted" by mythical black assailants.

When Bonnie Sweeten called 9-1-1, authorities had to treat her story seriously. The mother, sounding terrified, told police that she and her 9-year-old daughter were carjacked by two black men on Street Road and stuffed into the trunk of a Cadillac.

She also called her husband, expressing the fear that she might never see her family again.

Police called in the FBI, and authorities put out an Amber Alert, which was prudent. Even if investigators had doubts about Sweeten's story, they couldn't ignore the possibility that she was telling the truth.

Then, law-enforcement officials unraveled Sweeten's big, racist lie promptly and professionally. Police found her SUV in Center City, undamaged despite her claim that the assailants had rammed it. There was no evidence of an accident on Street Road.

The big break came when authorities found surveillance-camera pictures at Philadelphia International Airport that showed Sweeten and her daughter boarding a flight to Orlando. There is also a claim that she stole money from her former employer.

Sweeten was arrested in Florida one day after her phony report to police; her daughter was with her. To the credit of authorities, they resolved the mystery quickly and safely.

The false-report charges against Sweeten are misdemeanors, but the damage goes beyond a minor crime. Once again, a white person in trouble with the law sought to cover tracks by blaming phantom black men. It has become the default alibi.

The list includes Tanya Dacri, the Philadelphia mother who drowned her infant and dismembered it in 1989, then told cops a black man had stolen her child. There was Charles Stuart of Boston, who killed his pregnant wife and told cops a black man shot her. (In that case, police rounded up black "suspects.")

Susan Smith of South Carolina told police in 1994 that a black man abducted her young sons to cover the fact that she'd drowned them in a lake. Ashley Todd, a McCain-Palin campaign volunteer, claimed she was robbed in Pittsburgh last October by a black man who carved a "B" for Barack Obama on her face. She later confessed she'd made it up and mutilated her own face.

Black Americans understandably feel disgust at these desperate inventions by white accusers. They can't be blamed for wondering if such a story lacking the racial component would have received as much national media attention.

It may not be much consolation to African Americans, but many white people also suspected that Sweeten's story didn't ring true. Perhaps this sorry tale will bring us a step closer to a day without racist-manufactured bogeymen.