The Epidemic of Police Brutality: at least 17 U.S. police departments under investigation by US DoJ

It’s a modern article of American faith: Metropolitan police departments have a history of conflict with their cities’ minority citizens, conflicts that suggest police agencies trade evenhanded justice for heavy-handed contact with the public. In the recent past, police departments in Los Angeles, New York City and New Orleans have been taken to task for excessive force and have taken actions to correct the problem.

But in the last two years, according to the U.S. Justice Department, allegations of wrongdoing by police departments across the country have mushroomed to unprecedented levels. According to Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, at least 17 U.S. police departments are under investigation for various civil rights violations, “more than at any time in the division’s history,” Perez said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.

A very recent example, in one of America’s most storied precincts of liberalism and tolerance, symbolizes both the breadth of the problem as a national issue and the challenges facing its correction.

After an eight-month Justice Department investigation into allegations of excessive force by the Seattle Police Department, allegations made mostly by black and Latino citizens, U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said at a Dec. 16 news conference that “there is reasonable cause to believe that the Seattle Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of using unnecessary and excessive force, in violation of the United States Constitution.” The department found that about one in every five use-of-force cases by Seattle police was unconstitutional.,0


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