Police brutality cases on rise since 9/11

Information Liberation | Dec 20, 2007

By Kevin Johnson

WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors are targeting a rising number of law enforcement officers for alleged brutality, Justice Department statistics show. The heightened prosecutions come as the nation’s largest police union fears that agencies are dropping standards to fill thousands of vacancies and “scrimping” on training.

Cases in which police, prison guards and other law enforcement authorities have used excessive force or other tactics to violate victims’ civil rights have increased 25% (281 vs. 224) from fiscal years 2001 to 2007 over the previous seven years, the department says.

During the same period, the department says it won 53% more convictions (391 vs. 256). Some cases result in multiple convictions.

Federal records show the vast majority of police brutality cases referred by investigators are not prosecuted.

University of Toledo law professor David Harris, who analyzes police conduct issues, says it will take time to determine whether the cases represent a sustained period of more aggressive prosecutions or the beginnings of a surge in misconduct.

The cases involve only a fraction of the estimated 800,000 police in the USA, says James Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the nation’s largest police union.

Even so, he says, the FOP is concerned that reduced standards, training and promotion of less experienced officers into the higher police ranks could undermine more rigid supervision.

“These are things we are worried about,” Pasco says.

For the past few years, dozens of police departments across the country have scrambled to fill vacancies. The recruiting effort, which often features cash bonuses, has intensified since 9/11, because many police recruits have been drawn to military service.

In its post-Sept. 11 reorganization, the FBI listed police misconduct as one of its highest civil rights priorities to keep pace with an anticipated increase in police hiring through 2009.

The increasing Justice numbers generally correspond to a USA TODAY analysis of federal law enforcement prosecutions using data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Those data show 42 law enforcement prosecutions during the first 10 months of fiscal year 2007, a 66% increase from all of fiscal 2002 and a 61% rise from a decade ago.

David Burnham, the co-founder of the TRAC database, says prosecutions appear to be increasing, but “more important” are the numbers of cases prosecutors decline.

Last year, 96% of cases referred for prosecution by investigative agencies were declined.

In 2005, 98% were declined, a rate that has remained “extremely high” under every administration dating to President Carter, according to a TRAC report.

The high refusal rates, say Burnham and law enforcement analysts, result in part from the extraordinary difficulty in prosecuting abuse cases. Juries are conditioned to believe cops, and victims’ credibility is often challenged.

“When police are accused of wrongdoing, the world is turned upside down,” Harris says. “In some cases, it may be impossible for (juries) to make the adjustment.”

. . .


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One response to “Police brutality cases on rise since 9/11

  1. Hello. My name is Sara and I can be reached at Saramillet@hotmail.com. Please send me any info or ideas you have, or if you can help me. (You can also find me at myspace.) I have done everything I can think of to get Miles story out including writing a research paper while studying at the University of Washington.

    My 19 year old foster brother was killed by the Port Angeles city police in late September 2001, just weeks after 9-11. He was in custody on an alleged marijuana and statutory rape charge.

    Two other men (3 total) were reported to have died in a similar fashion, in the same jail within the same year. Another 20 year old young man dies in jail after being held for “stealing his parents car”.

    The police reported Miles death a suicide however I have a picture where you can clearly see finger prints around his neck. Further it was reported that he twisted a sheet around the bottom leg of a bed, wrapped it around his neck, then sat on the floor leaning forward thus cutting off air and killing himself. This story is highly unlikely for all the reasons you’re thinking, but even more so because thin green mats are used rather than sheets in the PA city jail.

    Miles’ mother could not even find an attorney that would represent her against the city once they learned of the “circumstances”. The local media would not report the story either. (I myself wrote a statement, drove over four hours and personally delivered it to the local newspaper, but it was never published).

    Seattle is our nearest city, but even news outlets in the city wouldn’t report the story. Independant Media through Indymedia was the only source to even cover Miles’ death and the questionable circumstances. Our local small town newspaper read on the front page “Accused Rapist Found Dead in Cell”.

    After we buried Miles, upon driving out of town my cousin and I were both pulled over by the same police officer. (I was alone and left in the dark on the side of the highway 2 hours from home after being told that “they could do anything they wanted to me, including taking me to jail). I went to court to fight the ticket and there was no radar certification. Therefore there was no probable cause to pull me over in the first place. Are the police in a habit of pulling over family members after such a tragedy?

    If you can be of any assistance in getting out Miles story please let me know. Thank You so very much I appreciate anything you can do for me!!!

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