Federal prosecutors in the United States declined to pursue civil rights allegations against law enforcement officers 96 percent of the time from 1995 to 2015, results from a Tribune-Review investigation released on Saturday reveal.
In a six month period the newspaper built up a database of close to 3 million records from the Department of Justice’s National Caseload Data and analyzed criminal complaints by the calendar year when they were filed.
Statistics say that 12,703 potential civil rights violations were turned down across the country out of 13,233 total complaints from 1995-2015 including high-profile incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, Chicago and New York City.
Alarmingly, prosecutors received referrals involving 21,364 law enforcement officers over the 21 year time frame, yet only 631 were convicted of civil rights abuses.
While 11 federal districts, including Alaska, Colorado and New Jersey, received a total of 240 referrals, no officers were formally charged.
The paper says the most frequent reasons cited for declining civil rights complaints involving officers were mainly weak or insufficient evidence, lack of criminal intent required under a 1945 Supreme Court ruling standard, and orders from the Justice Department.
“We don’t hesitate to open a file on a civil rights case, yet it’s one of the most difficult cases to gather sufficient evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt at trial,” Steve Kaufman, from the U.S. Attorney’s office for Western Pennsylvania said. “Obviously then you do have a relatively high percentage that don’t end up being prosecuted.”
Craig Futterman, a law professor who founded the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at the University of Chicago, says that pursuing policemen who have violated the law is an area that authorities need to look into.
“This is an area, quite honestly, where the feds need to be bolder and put greater resources in,” he said. “Indeed, the failure to aggressively bring those cases has allowed too many abusive officers to believe that they can operate without fear of punishment.”
One constant in the investigation’s findings is that no matter how many referrals prosecutors received across the U.S. they consistently declined more than 90 percent of them.
The number has remained steady even as the number of smartphones, able to record law enforcement officers abusing civil rights by photo or video, in civilian hands has risen.
For all other non civil crimes, prosecutors rejected only about 23 percent of complaints, the paper found.
This content was originally published by teleSUR.
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