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Police Brutality




Vernellia R. Randall
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from Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in the United States, The Status of Compliance by the U.S. Government with the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Compiled By THE WORLD ORGANIZATION AGAINST TORTURE USA


prepared by

Center for Constitutional Rights 

Movement Support Resource Center

Police brutality against people of color has become one of the most significant human rights problems in the United States.Many local police departments throughout the nation engage in discriminatory conduct against people of African, Latino and Asian descent.National attention has been given to a number of recent police brutality cases, such as the Rodney King incident in 1991, the Abner Louima incident in 1997 and the Amadou Diallo shooting in 1999, awakening Americans to the extent that racism remains a major element in the culture and practices of police departments.

Examples of the pattern of human rights violations against people of color by police include: use of excessive force (e.g. beating, shooting and torture of civilians while in police custody); racist and other offensive language and racial harassment; arrests and searches based solely on race and ethnicity; overuse of police checkpoints and roadblocks in communities of color; the arrest of minority group members, particularly youth, for “quality of life” crimes such as loitering; racial profiling – the stopping of individuals because of their race or ethnicity; and racial discrimination and reprisals against police officers of color by other police officers.Police brutality against people of color is not an isolated event carried out by a few “bad apple” police officers.It is an ingrained and thoroughgoing part of police practices demonstrating a pattern of violence and abuse targeted to people of color.

Despite recent progress by the U.S. Department of Justice in the civil prosecution of law enforcement officials and police departments for police brutality in a few major cities, the federal government overall lacks the commitment, financial resources, personnel and funding to eliminate and prevent patterns of racial and ethnic discrimination by police and police departments nationally. Current federal law is failing to protect people of color against police brutality, eliminate racism in police training and prevent police practices that seek to avoid accountability by covering up abuses. The Federal Government has not even complied with the statutory requirement that it compile and publicly release statistics on police brutality on an annual basis.

State and local governments also are failing to do enough to curtail police brutality against people of color by their law enforcement agencies.Local prosecutors are failing to pursue criminal cases against abusive and corrupt police officers.Police officers and departments continue to evade accountability by not dealing with cases through their internal review process on an effective basis. Civilian review boards, established in some communities, generally lack sufficient authority and funding to effectively investigate and punish police misconduct.


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