In March 1991, Los Angeles police officers were caught on camera brutally beating Rodney King. The video shows a defenceless King lying on the ground as three surrounding officers kick and club him. While cases of police brutality certainly existed before the Rodney King incident, the case helped shed more light and public awareness on the subject.
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On the Rise
Between 1985 and 1990, the annual number of police brutality cases in metropolitan Miami increased from 67 to 111, according to Time. Similar trends have been noted in other cities. In Chicago, cases went from 2,084 to 2,476 within the same period. According to AsiaPacific.Amnesty.org, 997 claims of police misconduct were reported in 1987, and more than 2,000 were reported in 1994. NYTimes.com reports that 10,149 misconduct complaints were filed against Chicago police between 2002 and 2004.
Racially Charged Brutality
According to AsiaPacific.Amnesty.org, an Amnesty International investigation into excessive force and police brutality within the New York Police Department found that in the majority of cases, racial minorities were the victims. The report says victims included both males and females of various social and racial backgrounds, and two-thirds of the 90 cases studied involved African-American or Latino victims. Between January 1995 and June 1995, 75.9 per cent of complaints lodged with New York City's CCRB came from African-American New York City residents.
Where Is Police Brutality Most Common?
A 1994 report from the Mollen Commission notes a link between areas of high police corruption and high police brutality in the NYPD. The report said that excessive force was most commonly found in high-crime areas, often with a high rate of drug use. AsiaPacific.Amnesty.org cites a link between race and police brutality to account for the high number of cases in ethnically diverse areas.
Statistics about police brutality may not always be completely accurate. Time.com indicates that many cases go unreported, while many that are reported are disputed. AsiaPacific.Amnesty.org says police officers often adhere to a "code of silence," refusing to testify against fellow officers. This can skew the accuracy of statistics, because police testimony might solidify many brutality cases.
Trends show a lack of punishment in the majority of police brutality cases. AmnestyUSA.org asserts that appropriate discipline is most evident only in high-profile cases. The New York Times said that, of the 10,149 misconduct cases reported in Chicago between 2002 and 2004, only 19 led to an officer suspension of a week or more.
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