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Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States

NCJ Number
Allyson Collins
Cynthia Brown
Date Published
440 pages
Research conducted in 14 cities over 2.5 years focused on police brutality and the barriers to accountability for police officers who commit human rights violations.
The cities were Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Providence, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Information was collected by means of interviews and correspondence with attorneys representing victims alleging ill-treatment by police, representatives of internal affairs units of police agencies, police officers, staff of citizen review agencies, city officials, officials of the Department of Justice, representatives of Federal United States attorneys' offices, representatives of local prosecutors' offices, experts on police abuse, and victims of police abuse. Results revealed large costs in terms of: (1) millions of dollars in damages paid every year in response to victims' civil lawsuits; (2)in police criminality and the corruption of ideals of public service; and (3) the ensuing public distrust that creates a rift between the police and the public, particularly in communities of racial minorities. In addition, race has a central role in police brutality. Victims of police brutality have many options for reporting abusive handling by police officers, but little chance of seeing those officers punished or prosecuted. The shortcomings of processes for addressing the problem include lack of effective public accountability and transparency, the persistent failure to investigate and punish police officers who commit human rights violations, and obstacles to justice. Reforms are recommended at the departmental, municipal, and Federal levels. Tables; footnotes; and appended tables, figures, and United Nations conventions and other statements on human rights and police misconduct