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...
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