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Police Brutality

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Police brutality remains one of the most serious and divisive human rights violations in the United States. The excessive use of force by police officers persists because of overwhelming barriers to accountability. This fact makes it possible for officers who commit human rights violations to escape due punishment and often to repeat their offenses. Police or public officials greet each new report of brutality with denials or explain that the act was an aberration, while the administrative and criminal systems that should deter these abuses by holding officers accountable instead virtually guarantee them impunity (Williams 45).

Investigations find that police brutality is persistent in all cities, and the systems set up to deal with these abuses have all had similar failings in each city. It was also established that complainants often face enormous difficulty in seeking administrative punishment or criminal prosecution of officers who have committed human rights violations. A national survey was taken by the Seattle Times and states that seventy percent of all police crimes against the public go unreported (Database of Abusive Police). Despite claims to the contrary from city officials where abuses have become scandals in the media, efforts to make meaningful reforms have fallen short.

The scenarios are frighteningly similar from city to city. Shortcomings in recruitment, training, and management are common to all. So is the fact that officers who repeatedly commit human rights violations tend to be a small minority, but are still routinely protected by the silence of their fellow officers and by flawed systems of reporting. Another pervasive shortcoming is the scarcity of meaningful information about trends in abuse. Data is also lacking regarding the police departments' response to those incidents and their plans or actions to prevent brutality. Where data does exist, there is no evidence that police administrators or, prosecutors utilize available information in a way to deter abuse. Another commonality in recent years is recognition, in most cities, about what needs to be done to fix troubled departments. However, this encouraging development is coupled with an official unwillingness to deal seriously with officers who commit abuses until high profile cases expose long-standing negligence or tolerance of brutality (Burris 26).

One recent, positive development has been the federal "pattern or practice" civil investigations, and subsequent agreements, initiated by the U.S. Justice Department.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Steubenville, Ohio, the Justice Department's Civil

Rights Division has examined shortcomings in accountability for misconduct in those cities' police departments; the cities agreed to implement reforms to end volatile practices rather than risk the Justice Department taking a case to court for injunctive action (ibid 67). The reforms proposed by the Justice Department were similar to those long advocated by community activists and civil rights groups. This includes better use-of-force training and policies, stronger reporting mechanisms, creation of early warning systems to identify current officers at risk of engaging in abuse, and improved disciplinary procedures. "Problem" officers would receive special monitoring, training and counseling to counter the heightened risk of brutality. Several other police departments, including those in Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia, are reportedly under investigation by the Civil Rights Division.

The majority of these human rights violation are against minorities. Racism plays a huge role in this type of behavior. There are cases within the inner cities in which a particular group of kids will be stopped, searched, and harassed for "looking suspicious" or "fitting the description of a suspect" daily by the police with no reports filled out at all. These incidents are common within minority communities. In New York City between the years of 1997-1998 the Street Crimes Unit stopped and over 45,000 men, mostly African American and Hispanic in order to make slightly more than 9000 arrest (Chua-Eoan 26). In New Jersey, Governor Christine Todd Whitman openly admitted to racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike. In the case of Abner Louima while the officers were committing this hanis crime they were quoted for saying that this is Guiliani time. This type of action implies that these are not a few isolated incidents and that it goes much deeper than just that group of officers. Don Jackson a former police sergeant in Hawthorne California states, "Excessive police force against blacks has always been tolerated. Investigations won't make a difference the investigators support the police and more importantly the support the racist mentality that is responsible for most of the brutality". (Burris 72) These types of statements tell a shocking story of how racism permeates police culture so deeply that it will require a monumental national effort to change the status quo.

Allegations of police abuse are widespread in cities throughout the country and take many forms. A few examples of police brutality in some major cities as Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Minneapolis exist. The beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles became a major controversy when police officers severely beat King while other police officers just stood there and watched. The police involved in the brutal beating were acquitted, which sparked the Los Angeles riots. The African-American community led this protest against the common occurrence of police brutality and the biased judicial system. Another case of brutality involved an African-American named Frank Schmidt. The case of Frank Schmidt in Philadelphia illustrated flawed investigation procedures and lax discipline. Officer Chris Rudy was on duty, but was reportedly visiting friends and drinking alcohol at a warehouse during the incident in November of 1993. A dispute arose between the warehouse owner and Frank Schmidt, with Schmidt accused of stealing items from the warehouse. Schmidt reportedly told investigators that the warehouse gates were locked behind him, a gun was put to his head, and he was beaten as officer Rudy watched and poured beer over Schmidt's head. Throughout the ordeal, the warehouse owner reportedly threatened to cut off Schmidt's hands with a knife and to have warehouse workers rape him. Schmidt reported the incident to the police, but Rudy was not questioned for seven months and then denied everything. Rudy reportedly received a twelve-day suspension for failing to take police action and for conduct unbecoming of a police officer, and he was returned to active duty. Another example involved officer Michael Ray Parent, who was convicted in state court of kidnapping and raping



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