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Prosecuting Police Misconduct: Reflections on the Role of the U.S. Civil Rights Division

NCJ Number
Alexis Agathocleous
Date Published
24 pages
Although prosecutions of police misconduct, especially for murder, torture, or the excessive use of force, are difficult to bring, the longest standing exception involves the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
The Civil Rights Division maintains a permanent staff of prosecutors specializing in the prosecution of police officers. The experiences of these prosecutors have much to say about the nature of police misconduct and about strategies prosecutors can employ to hold police accountable to the law. Former heads of the Civil Rights Division discuss the prosecutions in which they have been involved and the lessons learned. The focus is on the Federal role in prosecuting police misconduct, challenges related to racism and noncooperation, the negotiation of relationships with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and State authorities, difficulties in obtaining jury convictions, limitations of individual criminal prosecutions, burden of proof, civil lawsuits against police misconduct, and the potential for institutional reform. The role of the Civil Rights Division in the Rodney King case is noted. 20 notes and 5 photographs