Abuse of Power

Writing at The American Conservative, Bonnie Kristian explains why the “few bad apples” defense of American policing doesn’t work. She offers seven lines of evidence to show that police brutality is systematic rather than occasional.

For instance: “Only one out of every three accused cops are convicted nationwide, while the conviction rate for civilians is literally double that. In Chicago, the numbers are even more skewed: There were 10,000 abuse complaints filed against the Chicago PD between 2002 and 2004, and just 19 of them ‘resulted in meaningful disciplinary action.’ On a national level, upwards of 95 percent of police misconduct cases referred for federal prosecution are declined by prosecutors because, as reported in USA Today, juries ‘are conditioned to believe cops, and victims’ credibility is often challenged.'”

Most damningly: “A Department of Justice study revealed that a whopping 84 percent of police officers report that they’ve seen colleagues use excessive force on civilians, and 61 percent admit they don’t always report ‘even serious criminal violations that involve abuse of authority by fellow officers.'”

The systemic problems don’t exist only in policing. Our problems with criminal justice are, as the late William Stuntz pointed out, systemic in our politics as well. Politicians press a “law and order” agenda that encourages harsh tactics and casts a blind eye on abuses. Stuntz spoke of our “pathological” criminal justice system, and the pathology is in legislatures and prosecutors’ offices as much as on the streets.

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