While U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has announced plans to launch a federal investigation into the use of force by the Baltimore Police Department, that police force is hardly the first to be accused of using excessive measures against the public. According to a survey, there are a steady number of cases each year in which Americans complain about the behavior of local police.
The Police Public Contact Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, reveals that around 1.4 percent of people who came in contact with police in 2008 accused officers of threatening them or using force against them. The percentage was 1.6 in 2005 and 1.5 in 2002.
The survey also reveals that African-Americans are more likely than whites or Hispanics to have force used against them by police. Around 74 percent of people who had force used against them in 2008 believed that the force was excessive. In the same year, around half the people who said they had force used against them said they were either grabbed or pushed. About 19 percent of such people reported having been injured during such confrontations.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts welcomed Lynch's plan for a review by the U.S. Department of Justice, saying it would be a “good thing.” He said that officer-involved shootings and citizen complaints were both in decline in Baltimore, but the community did not feel it.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the lead prosecutor in Baltimore, recently filed criminal charges against six police officers who were suspended in connection with the April 19 death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody after his April 12 arrest. Mosby argued that Gray’s requests for medical aid were ignored. Gray’s death sparked days of violent protests in Baltimore.
Around 84 percent people who had force used against them in 2008 believed that the officers had acted improperly. Among those, 14 percent lodged a complaint against police. Around 40 percent of those who complained about excessive force by police in 2008 were arrested.
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