Police Misconduct

April 6, 2012 • Volume 22, Issue 13
Will excessive force, racial profiling be curbed?
By Kenneth Jost


A protester holds up a photo of wood carver John T. Williams (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A protester holds up a photo of wood carver John T. Williams, a hearing-impaired Native American killed by Seattle Police Sgt. Ian Birk in 2010. A fixture at a nearby social service center, Williams was shot after failing to respond to Birk's order to drop an open carving knife. The Feb. 16, 2011, demonstration was to protest the King County prosecutor's decision not to charge Birk, who later resigned. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The U.S. Department of Justice is stepping up its oversight of local police departments, pressuring them to limit the use of force in civilian encounters and eliminate racial profiling during traffic stops and other enforcement. Over the past year, the Justice Department's civil rights division has criticized long-troubled police agencies in such places as New Orleans, Seattle and Maricopa County, Ariz., which includes Phoenix. The department's power stems from a 1994 law allowing the federal government to identify a “pattern or practice” of constitutional violations and threaten court action to force police agencies to adopt changes. Seattle officials have proposed a detailed plan to answer the government's criticisms, but negotiations are stalled in New Orleans and Maricopa County, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio is balking at the government's demand for court supervision of policy changes. Meanwhile, the racially charged shooting death of a Florida teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer has focused attention on police handling of the case.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Law Enforcement
Apr. 21, 2017  High-Tech Policing
Sep. 16, 2016  Jailing Debtors
Jun. 07, 2016  Crime and Police Conduct
Apr. 06, 2012  Police Misconduct
Oct. 14, 2011  Eyewitness Testimony
May 06, 2011  Business Ethics
Mar. 17, 2000  Policing the Police
Nov. 24, 1995  Police Corruption
Sep. 06, 1991  Police Brutality
Apr. 19, 1974  Police Innovation
Sep. 02, 1966  Police Reforms
Jan. 12, 1954  Federal Police Activity
Apr. 01, 1932  Proposed Expansions of Federal Police Activity
Crime and Law Enforcement