Should we take the Department of Justice's word on how federal prosecutions of police officers are being conducted and resolved, or do we need to see the data?

After a police officer is accused of a crime and the Department of Justice decides to investigate, virtually no data is available on how many officers are convicted or dismissed of these charges – or even what crimes police were charged with in the first place.

Recently during a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Ohio Carter Stewart stated:

In the past 5 fiscal years, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has opened over 20 investigations into police departments to address unconstitutional policing practices—more than twice as many investigations than were opened in the previous 5 fiscal years… In addition to this civil work, we have criminally prosecuted 337 individual police officers for misconduct in the last 5 years. The Department believes in broad reform as a key tool to addressing racial tensions in the justice system.

While the Department of Justice provides detailed information on its pattern and practice investigations and settlements against police departments, very little data or documents have been provided to back up the numbers of federal criminal civil rights prosecutions or to see how they have changed over time.

The ACLU, in the fight for transparency and police reform, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Justice Department. The request is in search of information regarding the number of federal criminal civil rights prosecutions, including convictions, acquittals, and dismissal of charges brought against police officers within the last five years. Among other records and documents, the request demands data related to federal prosecutions for excessive use of force and killings of people of color and persons with mental disabilities.

In addition to the ACLU's work, the U.N. has been very critical of the Justice Department's failure to provide further information or statistics on the details of criminal civil rights prosecutions of police officers.

A fact the United Nations Committee Against Torture highlighted last November in its report to the United States:

While noting the information provided by the delegation that over the past five years 20 investigations were opened into allegations of systematic police department violations, and over 330 police officers were criminally prosecuted, the Committee regrets the lack of statistical data available on allegations of police brutality and the lack of information on the result of the investigations undertaken in respect of those allegations.

There remains an urgent need for national comprehensive data on police use of force and accountability measures taken to combat impunity. Providing more data regarding federal prosecutions involving police officers who abuse their power is a critical step toward building a culture of transparency and accountability for policing in America and helps the U.S. comply with its international human rights obligations, especially concerning policies and practices around the use of force by law enforcement officers.

Americans put a lot of faith in police. The Department of Justice should reward it by assuring the public that it does its very best to remove police officers from the job who can no longer be trusted with a badge and a gun. Democracy and public safety demand it.

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Anonymous

I WAS HAPPY TO SEE YOUR ARTICLE! I LIVE IN A SMALL TOWN IS KENTUCKY WHERE IN MY OPPINION CORRUPTION IS AT AN ALL TIME HIGH. IN THE LAST SEVERAL MONTHS I HAVE WITNESSED WHAT A POLICE OFFICER HAS DONE AND THUS FAR HAS GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT . WE HAVE MEDICAL RECORDS , PHOTOS AND THE INDIVIDUAL THAT WAS BEATEN WAS HANDCUFFED TO A TELEPHONE POLE . SAD HOW KENTUCKY'S LAW ENFORCEMENT CAN GET AWAY WITH THESE ACTS OF HITTING INDIVIDUALS WITH DEADLY FORCE WHILE UNABLE TO PROTECT THEMSELVES. AND DID I MENTION THAT THIS INDIVIDUAL IS SLOW AND HAD SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASS'S WHILE IN SCHOOL?

Anonymous

if our government wants to give surplus DOD weapons to these guys, they should allow the public to keep an eye on them. a live web cam feed from every police car. would be a good start

Anonymous

if our government wants to give surplus DOD weapons to these guys, they should allow the public to keep an eye on them. a live web cam feed from every police car. would be a good start

Anonymous

fu

Anonymous

interesting, considering these people are armed at the tax payers expense.

Lawrence Dawson

We definitely need to see the data.

Anonymous

Its sad that a few "bad eggs" can make you feel so unprotected. I was raped in Hyannis Ma (Barnstable County) on Sept 6th 2014. The detective that took my case made a mochary of me at the hospital and called me upset that I was getting a rape kit while I was on my way to have the kit performed. When I spoke with him the next day he hung up on me. When I called to get information about my case he wouldn't speak with me. When I asked at the police station what they had as my number in the computer he entered ALL of my numbers wrong. Once the kit was run a year later semen WAS found. I went to the police station and he came up with excuses for every memory I had of my obduction, beating, the outfits they wore and the masks. He laughed it off and said when my husbands DNA was verified in CODIS we could be done with it and when he dropped me off at my home asked me of I knew of any "drug dealers". I didn't hear anything from him. I called the lab that did my testing and found out that they had a DNA profile but nothing so far as a perfect match in CODIS. They had the information for 5 MONTHS and had reported it to my "detective" and he NEVER CALLED ME OR TOOK ME IN FOR MORE QUESTIONS TO FIND OUT WHO RAPED, TORCHERED ,POISONED ME AND LEFT ME FOR DEAD IN A HAPPY FLOORS TRUCK. The worst part is that the officer pulled next to me and was the last person I saw or spoke to the night of the incident.

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